Pakistan repels second Taliban attack on Karachi airport
By Ashraf Khan, AFP
June 11, 2014, 12:01 am TWN
KARACHI--Taliban gunmen attacked a security post outside Pakistan's Karachi airport on Tuesday, a day after an all-night siege by the militants left 37 dead and shredded a tentative peace process.
The latest assault on the airport raised further questions about the authorities' ability to secure key facilities in the face of a resurgent enemy, and came as air force jets pounded suspected militant hideouts in the northwest, killing 25 people.
The attack on the security post targeted an entry point to an Airport Security Force (ASF) camp 500 meters from the airport's main premises, and around a kilometer from the passenger terminal.
Police, paramilitary rangers and army all raced to the site but officials reported there had been no casualties and they had not traded fire with the militants.
“Two people came towards the ASF (Airport Security Force) checkpost and started firing,” Colonel Tahir Ali, a spokesman for the force told reporters. “Nobody has been killed or injured,” he added.
Army spokesman Major General Asim Bajwa confirmed the incident was over, but said three to four assailants were involved.
“3-4 terrorists fired near ASF camp, ran away. No breach of fence, no entry. Chase is on, situation under control,” he tweeted.
Flights resumed after temporarily being suspended for the second time in as many days, Abid Qaimkhani, a spokesman for the Civil Aviation Authority, told AFP.
A senior rangers official at the scene who wished to remain anonymous said the gunmen may have fled to a nearby shanty settlement.
“We are chasing them, we will get them, its not easy to hide here, there are no buildings, no population except for two small shanty towns nearby,” he told AFP.
The Taliban later claimed responsibility for the attack, saying they were in response to air strikes in the tribal areas.
“Today's attack on ASF (Airport Security Force) in Karachi is in response to the bombardment on innocent people in Tirah Valley and other tribal areas. We will continue such attacks,” spokesman Shahidullah Shahid said, referring to Pakistani air strikes of suspected militant hideouts.
Pakistan entered into talks with the Taliban in February and agreed upon a ceasefire in March, which broke down a month later.
Hasan Askari, an analyst, said the talks period had allowed the Taliban to gather their strength while the government dithered over what to do.
“The Taliban are very clear so far as their targets are concerned — they want to humble the Pakistani state and they are striving for it,” he said.
“They re-grouped themselves during the last couple of months as the talks process continued and they can do these things for the next couple of weeks and then they will need time to regroup again,” he added.
Many observers believe the peace process is dead and that the government must now take more strident measures, including attacking the Taliban's North Waziristan stronghold.