UPDATE, noon June 9: More than 20 are dead in the latest death toll at Jinnah International Airport in Pakistan. Pakistani security forces fought through the night to finally kill all of the 10 attackers, who invaded the airport the day before with grenade launchers and automatic weapons.
The Pakistani Taliban has announced its participation in the attack.
Original content: Pakistan’s most traveled airport, Jinnah International Airport in Karachi, came under attack on Sunday as militants lobbed grenades and fired automatic weapons in exchanges with airport security.
“Exchange of fire is continuing,” said a Karachi police official, Rao Muhammad Anwar, to Agence France-Presse. “We don’t know the exact number of the attackers but suspect four to six terrorists have attacked the airport.”
At least four Pakistani security guards have died since the attack began late Sunday, according to the New York Times. The assault seemed to focus on a V.I.P. area in the terminal and a cargo facility, with a force that Times sources put at between six and 10 combatants.
The Pakistani Taliban is suspected in the attack; however, no group has come forward to claim responsibility.
Flights were diverted from the airport after the fighting began, which developed to the point at which bystanders and media could see smoke rising from the airport, particularly from a fire near a jet.
The Times reports that it’s still unclear whether the attackers meant to attack where they did or if their plans to attack elsewhere were diverted by airport security. Pakistan was sending military forces stationed nearby to the airport late Sunday.
At one point, attackers approached the runway, firing their weapons and throwing hand grenades.
“The target appears to create panic and damage the fleet,” an airport official told the Times.
The attackers gained entrance to the airport facility after infiltrating a Pakistani security cordon near the entrance.
Though this is the most widespread attack on an airport facility in Pakistan, it’s not unprecedented. This time, reports the Guardian, some of the combatants used fake identification cards from the Airport Security Force to gain entry to the area where the attack was launched. The V.I.P. area in the terminal is not typically used for commercial flights, according to the Guardian.
Though many suspect the Pakistani Taliban in the attack, it’s hard to tell which faction is responsible. A month ago, one Taliban group splintered from another more militant group, which has been engaged in violent clashes for several months. It’s been a bloody time for the terrorists too. After peace accords between Pakistan and Taliban members fizzled in recent weeks, Pakistan has taken to engaging in air strikes that have claimed the lives of 75 suspected terrorists.
The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan group, which oversees both groups, has been fighting for seven years to bring Sharia law to Pakistan.
Pakistani police and military forces continued to fight the airport attackers late Sunday.
[Image courtesy of Pakistani Defence]