Karachi International Airport under terrorist attack
During the night terrorists carrying guns and grenades have infiltrated Karachi Airport, killing several members of security and threatening further fatalities.
The group, of around eight or ten in size, entered Jinnah International Airport in Karachi late on Sunday evening. It is thought that certain members may have infiltrated the grounds through the Fokker gate area by cutting through barbed wire, while others may have used explosives to destroy a wall near the cargo area.
Eighteen deaths are reported so far, including seven members of the Airport Security Force (ASF). In addition, seven attackers have also been killed in the violence, at least one of whom was a suicide bomber. At least 14 others have been wounded.
In the midst of continuous heavy gun-fire exchanges between the militants and armed forces, large explosions have been observed by both journalists and passengers at the scene. Officials say that no planes have been damaged, despite several suggestions that one plane had earlier caught fire. Other reports indicated plumes of smoke rising from the old terminal building where the siege is taking place.
In response to the attacks, security forces have sealed off the perimeters of the airport, and the army has since been called in to combat the insurgents and ensure the security of those passengers left stranded in airplanes on the runways. Flights to the airport have subsequently been diverted elsewhere, and all operations at the airport have been indefinitely suspended.
As of yet, the identity of those responsible is unknown, and no precise motivation or objective has been made clear. However, according to recent reports in the Washington Post: “One senior Pakistani intelligence official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive matter, said some of the militants tried to hijack a plane but were unsuccessful.”
As things currently stand, there remains a group of three or four militants occupying the old terminal building, where fighting continues. However, the main building, which hosts the vast majority of commercial flights, is apparently secure.
Elsewhere in Pakistan tonight, 22 people are reported to have been killed and others injured in simultaneous suicide attacks close to the Pakistan-Iran border. Again, no group has yet accepted responsibility for these attacks.
Tonight’s events offer grave insights into the delicate state of safety and security in Pakistan, particularly Karachi, where earlier this week sporadic outbreaks of violence, following the arrest in London of Altaf Hussain, leader of the Pakistan’s MQM party, left citizens fearing for their lives. In recent years, Karachi has experienced increasing violence of this type, fuelled by an influx of migrants from the north-western regions of the country, where the Taliban influence is particularly strong.