Taliban Says Pakistani Airport Attack Was 'A Response' To Military Assaults, Failed Peace Talks
As fires in Karachi raged on, the Taliban claimed responsibility for the deadly Pakistani airport attack Monday that killed 29 people and rocked a nation struggling to establish peace and security. A spokesperson for the terrorist group confirmed in a phone call with The New York Times that the assault, which took place overnight at the Jinnah International Airport in Karachi, was retribution for "recent attacks by the [Pakistani] government." The international airport is the largest in Pakistan, hosting more than 16 million people annually.
“We will continue carrying out such attacks," a Taliban spokesperson told The Times. The spokesperson added that the terrorist group is attempting to negotiate peace talks with the Pakistani government.
Syed Qaim Ali Shah, the chief minister of Sindh Province, confirmed to the media that 10 gunmen were among the 29 people dead. The militants killed 11 Airport Security Force members, five local airline officers and three others. Three of the militants deployed suicide bombs.
The attack reportedly began around 10:20 p.m. local time and lasted between five and six hours. The militants were armed with automatic weapons, grenades and bombing vests. They used the gunfire and explosives on the runways after making it past security checkpoints at the airport's old terminal and cargo area. According to USA Today, the attackers were disguised as airport security personnel.
As the attacks continued, many passengers were trapped inside the airport's terminals and aircrafts on the tarmac. Passengers reported hearing blasts and gunfire, and were told to stay on their planes.
According to The Guardian, the Pakistani army has launched airstrikes on the Taliban in North Waziristan Agency — a mountainous region near the Afghanistan border — in recent weeks after peace negotiations with the terrorist organization stalled. Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif initiated the peace talks earlier this year, assigning a four-member parliament committee to oversee the negotiations.
"It is necessary for the success of the talks to start this process with a good intention and it demands that the acts of terrorism be immediately stopped," Sharif told parliament in January.
Sharif's call for peace came after weeks of Taliban attacks rattled the nation's northwest region. In January, Taliban members bombed a truck carrying Pakistan Army soldiers, killing at least 20 soldiers and injuring 30 others. Deadly attacks in nearby Afghanistan have also worried the Pakistani government.
In recent weeks, the peace talks fell apart. The Pakistani government ended its ceasefire with the Taliban in late April, launching airstrikes on militants in the northwestern region who the government believes are responsible for several attacks throughout the nation, including an April 9 bombing in Islamabad that killed 22 people.