KARACHI- Pakistan’s military on Monday declared an end to an all-night offensive to quell a Taliban siege of Karachi airport that left 24 people dead, including 10 militants, and threatens to destroy a nascent peace process.
“The attack is over and we have cleared the area of all militants and we will hand over the airport to the Civil Aviation Authority at 12:00 pm (0700 GMT),” a spokesman for the paramilitary Rangers, Sibtain Rizvi, told reporters after nearly 12 hours of fighting.
The attack at Jinnah International Airport in Pakistan’s biggest city began just before midnight Sunday and raged until dawn, when the military said that all 10 attackers had been killed after they had stormed two areas equipped with suicide vests, grenades and rocket launchers.
But after authorities initially declared the area cleared, an AFP reporter witnessed fresh gunfire break out inside the airport — where explosions and fires had erupted during the night — prompting security forces to relaunch the operation.
The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) group said the attack was in revenge for its late leader Hakimullah Mehsud, who was killed in a US drone strike in November.
TTP spokesman Shahidullah Shahid also dismissed the Pakistani government’s recent offer of a new round of peace talks as a ruse, and promised more attacks to come.
“Pakistan used peace talks as a tool of war,” he told AFP.
“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 (Mehsud), we have to take revenge for hundreds.”
Talks to end the TTP’s bloody seven-year insurgency in Pakistan have been underway since February, with little clear progress made so far.