Goal of Taliban Airport Assault: Hijack Plane, Mayhem

But Karachi gunfight ends sooner than militants expected
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 9, 2014 7:19 AM CDT
Updated Jun 9, 2014 7:46 AM CDT
Goal of Taliban Airport Assault: Hijack Plane, Mayhem
Fire illuminates the sky above the Jinnah International Airport in Karachi where security forces were fighting with attackers Sunday night, June 8, 2014, in Pakistan.   (AP Photo/Fareed Khan)

Last night's five-hour gunfight at Pakistan's biggest airport, which ended with at least 27 dead including the 10 militants who stormed the airport, does in fact appear to have been an attempt by the Pakistani Taliban to hijack a passenger plane. A Pakistani military spokesperson initially denied that idea, but a Taliban spokesperson says, "The main goal of this attack was to damage the government, including by hijacking planes and destroying state installations." He also says the attack at Karachi's Jinnah International Airport was a response to attacks on Taliban strongholds near the Afghan border, Reuters reports.

It's not clear how the 10 gunmen got into the airport—some reports say they used fake ID cards and others say they cut through a barbed wire fence, the BBC reports, while Reuters has them shooting their way in. Either way, they were clearly prepared for a long fight—in addition to ammunition, their bags held dried fruit and water. They split into two groups, one of which created a diversion while the other stormed the cargo terminal en route to the nearby passenger terminal. Instead, security forces stopped them, and an overnight gunfight ensued in the cargo terminal as passengers were evacuated and flights diverted. Seven of the fighters were shot dead, while three detonated suicide bomb vests. The other dead included mostly Airport Security Force guards, but also some airline workers. (More Karachi stories.)

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