Taliban gunmen claim Karachi attack

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IOL pic jun10 pakistan airport security Associated Press Pakistani security personnel stand guard at the Karachi International Airport in Pakistan on June 10, 2014. Picture: Fareed Khan

Karachi - Pakistan's Taliban insurgents claimed responsibility for an attack on a security academy at Karachi's airport on Tuesday, less than 48 hours after an all-night siege by Taliban gunmen at Pakistan's busiest airport that killed more than 30 people.

“We accept responsibility for another successful attack against the government,” Pakistani Taliban spokesman Shahidullah Shahid told Reuters. “We are successfully achieving all our targets and we will go on carrying on many more such attacks.”

Two days earlier, 10 militants disguised as security force members and armed with rocket-propelled grenades stormed the airport, one of the most brazen attacks in a long-running Pakistani Taliban insurgency.

The late Sunday assault, in which 34 people were killed, destroyed prospects for peace talks between the Taliban and the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and triggered speculation that the army might opt for an all-out offensive against militant strongholds.

On Tuesday, a group of gunmen on motorbikes opened fire on an academy run by the Airports Security Force (ASF) and fled after security forces retaliated.

A Reuters correspondent near the airport of Pakistan's commercial capital heard gunfire and saw at least four ambulances heading to the scene.

There was no immediate word on casualties from the latest attack. The army's press wing said there were three or four attackers on motorbikes, whereas an ASF spokesman said there were two.

“The shooting came from a nearby shanty settlement towards the ASF,” said a senior police officer. “Police are launching a search operation now.”

Karachi airport briefly suspended all flights in and out of the sprawling city of 18 million were suspended, an official said, but most flights were restored by 09h30 GMT. Sri Lankan Airlines cancelled a Karachi-bound flight with 207 passengers onboard after the latest attack.

Earlier on Tuesday, Pakistani fighter jets bombed Taliban positions on the Afghan border.

“Nine terrorist hideouts were destroyed by early morning military air strikes near the Pakistan-Afghan border,” the army's press wing said, adding that 25 militants were killed.

It was unclear if the latest air strikes signalled the start of a broader offensive in the North Waziristan region where the al-Qaeda-linked Taliban are based, or indeed if they had been carried out in retaliation for the airport attack.

The air force has periodically conducted raids to bomb Pakistani Taliban positions in the lawless, ethnic Pashtun region but has yet to launch a major offensive.

The semi-autonomous Pashtun lands along the border, known as the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, have never been brought under the full control of any government.

The Pakistani Taliban, an alliance of insurgent groups fighting to topple the government and set up an Islamist state, said they had carried out the late Sunday attack in Karachi in response to the air strikes on their strongholds.

At Karachi's airport, rescue workers earlier recovered the bodies of seven people trapped inside a cargo building, bringing to 34 the death toll from the first assault.

“The bodies are badly charred beyond identification,” said a morgue official who declined to be identified.

Airport officials said the victims had taken refuge in the cargo shed to hide from the gunfire but got trapped when the building caught fire at the height of the battle.

“They (security forces) were busy killing militants and clearing the area, nobody bothered to rescue these trapped men,” said Abdul Rehman, whose brother was among those killed. “They could have been saved if timely rescue efforts had been made.” - Reuters

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