The Pakistani Taliban on Monday claimed responsibility for an attack on Karachi airport in revenge for their late leader Hakimullah Mehsud, who was killed in a US drone strike in November.
The raid began late on Sunday at a terminal used for cargo and VIP flights at Karachi international airport.
Twenty-eight people were killed as Pakistan\’s military fought an all-night battle with Taliban gunmen who besieged Karachi airport armed with rocket launchers and suicide vests, leaving a nascent peace process in tatters.
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.
A spokesman for the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) said the attack, which began after midnight, was in retaliation for the treatment of TTP prisoners, for air raids in North Waziristan and for the death of Hakimullah Mehsud, who was killed in a drone strike last year.
In a statement posted on Twitter, the armed group said: "We have yet to take revenge for the deaths of hundreds of innocent tribal women and children in Pakistani air strikes. It\’s just the beginning, we have taken revenge for one, we have to take revenge for hundreds."
Officials say all 10 gunmen were either shot by police or blew themselves up with suicide vests.
The attackers 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, which is now only used for cargo and VIP operations.
The Chief Minister of Sindh province, Qaim Ali Shah, said the attackers "were well trained".
"Their plan was very well thought out," he said, adding that they had failed to destroy some of the aircraft as they had intended.
“The operation began at 11:30 p.m., and was completed by around 4:30 am. It was carried out with joint planning. In the joint operation, we used ASF (Airport Security Force), the Pakistan Sindh Rangers, Sindh Police and contingents of the Pakistan army,” said Major General Rizwan Akhtar.
Several security personnel were killed along with four airport staff members. Passengers were evacuated to safety and none were hurt.
Officials say the militants wore disguises resembling airport security uniforms and used hand grenades and rocket launchers to blast their way into the terminal at Jinnah International Airport.
Several large explosions were heard throughout the gunfight with police that lasted well into Monday morning. A huge fire erupted during the clash, lighting up the night sky.
“No airplanes at the airport were damaged. It happened at the cargo terminal. The cargo building was set on fire by the terrorists, and the terrorists were killed there,” said Akhtar.
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.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is condemning the attack, and all flights to and from the airport have been cancelled.
Gunmen attacked the Mehran naval base there in 2011, killing 10 personnel and destroying two aircraft in a 17-hour siege.