Taliban claim deadly attack on Karachi airport

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Karachi has been a target for many attacks by the Taliban

The Pakistani Taliban have said they were behind an assault on the country's largest airport that killed at least 28 people, including all 10 attackers.

The raid on Jinnah international airport in Karachi began late on Sunday at a terminal used for VIPs and cargo.

Security forces battled the militants for at least six hours, finally gaining control around dawn. The airport has now reopened and flights have resumed.

Karachi has been a target for many attacks by the Taliban.

A spokesman for the group, Shahidullah Shahid, said the aim of Monday's assault had been to hijack aircraft, and was "a message to the Pakistan government that we are still alive to react over the killings of innocent people in bomb attacks on their villages".

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Security forces battled the militants for at least six hours

The dead terminal staff were said to be mostly security guards from the Airport Security Force (ASF) but also airline workers. At least 14 people were wounded.

Analysts say the attack further undermines Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's attempt at initiating peace talks with the Taliban.

The negotiations have made little headway since February. Critics have argued that they could allow the militants to regroup and gain strength.

Analysis: M Ilyas Khan, BBC News, Islamabad

Image source, AP
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The Pakistani Taliban's latest attack was well co-ordinated

The Karachi airport attack comes against the backdrop of a major split in the Pakistani Taliban (TTP) - and threats of retaliation following limited military operations against foreign militants in North Waziristan.

Given the violence, it seems clear that any pretence at a peace process is now over. Few seriously thought that recent talks between the government and militants were getting anywhere anyway.

The attack is also a reminder, if it were needed, that despite their divisions, the Taliban retain the capability to mount spectacular strikes across Pakistan.

'Well trained'

The army said the 10 gunmen stormed the airport in two teams of five on Sunday at 23:00 local time (18:00 GMT).

The airport was shut down, passengers were evacuated and flights diverted.

Image source, AP
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Police display weapons and ammunition used by the militants in their assault
Image source, Reuters
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Members of the bomb-disposal squad defuse explosives outside Karachi's airport
Image source, AP
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The army said they found suicide vests after the gun battle
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Some reports suggested the attackers were foreign nationals

The attackers, wearing explosives belts, are believed to have entered the area using fake ID cards, although some reports suggest they cut through a barbed wire fence.

They threw grenades and fired at security guards in the old terminal, used for cargo and VIP operations.

The Chief Minister of Sindh province, Qaim Ali Shah, said the attackers "were well trained" and their plan "very well thought out".

But they failed to destroy or seize any aircraft before seven of the attackers were later shot dead during a gun battle which lasted until about 04:30.

Another three detonated their explosives - there were reports of at least two huge blasts at the airport.

Army officials said there were indications that some of the gunmen may have been foreign nationals.

Image source, Riaz Sohail

I was with police at the Fokker Gate where some of the militants initially entered - and a few hundred metres from the fighting. We spent five to six hours at the airport while the militants were battling.

Witnesses told us the militants came in a high-roofed van, which dropped them at the entrance to this terminal and then quickly left.

We took cover while loud bomb blasts could be heard. Officials told us it was suicide bombers detonating their vests. Later they discovered live suicide jackets from militants shot dead in the encounter.

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Passenger Ignas Vosylius said he heard "several explosions" shortly after his plane landed

Pakistan has been fighting an Islamist insurgency for more than a decade, with the Pakistani Taliban the main militant group.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif recently told the BBC he was still hopeful a peace initiative with the Taliban could succeed.

But violent clashes have continued and Karachi has been a frequent target.