The Pakistani Taliban (TTP) claimed responsibility for an attack on Karachi’s Jinnah International Airport on Sunday night. At least 29 people died during the battle with security forces as the gunmen attempted to destroy airplanes and take hostages. The incident highlights the Taliban’s dangerous presence in Pakistan amid stalled peace talks with the government.
The terrorists, some disguised as security forces, launched their attack near an area of the airport commonly used for cargo and private flights. According to local officials, the 10 men who carried out the highly coordinated assault were armed with grenades, suicide vests, rocket launchers, automatic rifles and enough food for a prolonged fight.
Smoke rises from Jinnah International Airport in Karachi, Pakistan, on Monday, June 9, after militants launched an attack in the cargo area. (Photo: AFP)
Shahudullah Shahid, a spokesman for the TTP, said the attack was in response to the recent military airstrikes in northwestern Pakistan and the U.S. drone strike that killed Hakimullah Mehsud, the leader of the radical Islamist group. Shahid concluded by saying that the assault 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 village.”
The airport raid comes after tentative peace negotiations between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the Pakistani Taliban (TTP) appeared to be failing. These talks resulted in a major split in the TTP about whether it should negotiate with the Pakistani government. Despite the split, the TTP clearly maintains the ability to launch a well-coordinated attack. Sunday’s attack also raises new concerns over the government’s willingness to continue peace talks while the Taliban targets Pakistani civilians.