Well-trained and armed, Taliban tried to
hijack plane in Pakistan
Send a link to a friend
[June 09, 2014]
By Syed Raza Hassan
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Their backpacks
stuffed with food and ammunition, a squad of highly trained Taliban
fighters attacked Pakistan's biggest airport in what they clearly
expected to be a protracted siege.
Seven fighters were shot dead by Pakistani forces after five hours
of intense gunfire at Karachi's Jinnah International Airport. Three
died after detonating their suicide-bomb vests.
The Pakistani Taliban said they carried out the attack in response
to air strikes in their strongholds near the Afghan border and
suggested their mission was to hijack a passenger plane.
"The main goal of this attack was to damage the government,
including by hijacking planes and destroying state installations,"
said Shahidullah Shahid, a Taliban spokesman.
"This was just an example of what we are capable of and there is
more to come. The government should be ready for even worse
At least 27 people including 10 militants were killed.
In a similar well-coordinated attack in 2011, militants besieged a
naval base in Karachi to avenge the killing of al Qaeda leader Osama
bin Laden in a secret U.S. special forces operation that year.
The latest assault started just before midnight on Sunday.
Wearing Airport Security Force uniforms and armed with automatic
rifles and rocket-propelled grenades, the group shot its way into
the airport after arriving at the cargo terminal in two mini-vans.
A senior police officer said that the militants then split into two
groups, with one attacking a gate called Fokker to create a
diversion and the other storming the cargo terminal.
DRIED FRUIT AND WATER
The plan was to make it to the nearby passenger terminal but their
advance was disrupted by the unexpectedly strong resistance of
security forces including paramilitary Rangers.
A protracted gunbattle ensued as militants took up positions around
the cargo terminal. All passengers were quickly whisked away from
the airport and flights were diverted as the gunbattle unfolded
through the night.
[to top of second column]
"The militants were not able to achieve their target of hitting the
aeroplanes as they were kept engaged by the security forces, as
forces responded very quickly," said a security source.
He said the militants were highly trained and carried large
backpacks filled with dried fruit and water, suggesting they were in
for a long siege.
The official said all the attackers were wearing similar running
shoes - a trademark feature for Taliban insurgents. Bearded,
gun-toting militants wearing camouflage and simple trainers are a
common fixture of Taliban propaganda videos.
"It would have been much more disastrous if the militants had
reached the main terminal building and taken hostages. There were
hundreds of passengers and staff members present at the main
terminal at the time," the official said.
Two international flights, operated by Emirates and Thai Airways,
were boarding passengers at the time of the attack.
Parts of the terminal were set ablaze but it was unclear if
insurgents had intentionally set it on fire.
Heavy smoke billowed into the sky well into Monday when officials
announced the siege was over and that the airport would resume
operations at 4 p.m. (1100 GMT).
(Writing by Maria Golovnina; Editing by Robert Birsel)
[© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2014 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.