Pakistan’s Taliban claims responsibility for the attack on Karachi airport, telling Channel 4 News it is in response to the killing of its chief in a drone attack last year.
Taliban spokesman Shahidullah Shahid told Channel 4 News by phone from the North Waziristan tribal region that the attack, in which at least 26 people are reported to have been killed, was revenge for the US strike that killed Hakimullah Mehsud in November 2013.
“We have the right to respond to attacks,” Shahid said. Earlier the Taliban used Twitter to praise the attackers.
Mehsud was reported to have been killed after meeting other senior Taliban leaders to discuss a peace initiative that was being pursued by Pakistan’s government.
The attack on Pakistan‘s Jinnah International Airport began late on Sunday night when when “six to 10” gunmen got past security barriers and targeted a VIP area. The men “made towards the runway from the backside of the airport,” said one witness, referring to a cargo gate.
A firefight with security forces then followed, leaving at least 26 people dead according to police sources.
“The old terminal of Karachi airport was attacked by militants,” said a senior police official.
Pakistani Taliban praise Karachi attackers on Twitter, say praying for them, that less than 6 successfully challenged huge airport security
— bendepear (@bendepear) June 8, 2014
2/2 #c4news spokesperson says 5/6 attacked airport; at least 1 attacker & 4 security dead, clashes ongoing, 10+ injured brought to hospital.
— bendepear (@bendepear) June 8, 2014
Pakistan’s paramilitary force said on Monday that a group of foreign fighters including ethnic Uzbeks was involved in the attack.
“Three militants blew themselves up and seven were killed by security forces,” Rizwan Akhtar, the regional head of the paramilitary rangers, said in televised.
“The militants appear to be Uzbek.”
Police said on Monday that the attackers had come prepared for a protracted siege. The militants were said to have been carryin g large backpacks filled with dried fruit and water.
It seems there was some ill-planning on their part. They did fire two rockets but they didn’t hit their targets. Raja Umar Khatta, police officer
Wearing airport security uniforms, the attackers were armed automatic rifles and rocket-propelled grenades and arrived in two minivans.
When at the airport, the groups separated into pairs – with some attackng a gate called Fokker in order to create a diversion, and others storming the main cargo hold.
Security sources said the militants had intended to target planes at the airport.
Raja Umar Khattab, a senior police officer, said: “They operated in pairs. That’s why their bodies were found lying in pairs.
“It seems there was some ill-planning on their part. They did fire two rockets but they didn’t hit their targets.”
He added: “They wasted 10 men, but couldn’t inflict serious damage on the airport. They didn’t wear suicide vests, but instead used suicide belts. This is the reason why their faces and upper bodies were not badly mutilated.”
The Pakistani Taliban praised the attackers on Twitter.
The attack took place as Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government tries to engage Taliban militants in negotiations to end years of fighting.
All flights destined for Karachi were diverted to other cities.
Hours after the airport attack a suspected Taliban suicide bomber rammed a truck into a Pakistan military checkpoint on the border with Afghanistan killing
four soldiers, military officials said.
One military source said seven soldiers were wounded.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the assault, which took place in Pakistan’s North Waziristan tribal region.
“The death toll could increase,” a military official said. Officials said the Pakistan Taliban was responsible.
More from Channel 4 News: Karachi fears violence after Pakistani political arrest
Smoke rises after the early morning assault at Jinnah International Airport (Getty)
Pakistani policemen show seized weapons from the militants (Getty)
A Pakistani rescuer moves an injured man outside the Karachi airport (Getty)
Pakistani airport employees leave the Jinnah International (Getty)
A Pakistani police commando shout slogans on his return from the operation against militants (Getty)
Pakistani troops arrives to take position at the Karachi airport terminal after the militants’ assault in Karachi late on Sunday (Getty)
Pakistani security personnel gather outside the Jinnah International Airport after the assault in Karachi (Getty)
Smoke rises from Jinnah International Airport after an assault by gunmen (Getty)