Taliban claims responsibility for attack on Karachi Airport

A savage sustained guerilla attack last night on Karachi’s Jinnah International Airport, the largest airport in a country of 190 million people, was defeated, but only after 5 hours of open battle, and the deaths of 28 people. The Taliban in Pakistan has claimed responsibility. Tim Craig of the Washington Post reports:

 Heavily armed gunmen disguised as security forces attacked Karachi’s international airport Sunday night, killing at least 18 people before government troops regained control early Monday. The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the assault, which appeared to dash hopes for peace talks.

The government said all 10 of the attackers were killed in more than five hours of fighting at the airport, which would bring the total number of deaths to 28. A doctor at Karachi’s Jinnah Hospital said 18 bodies were brought to the morgue there and that 11 of the dead were airport security personnel, the Associated Press reported. The bodies of the attackers remained in police custody.

In a statement Monday, Shahidullah Shahid, a spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban, said the attack was in response to recent Pakistani military airstrikes in northwestern Pakistan and to a U.S. drone strike in November that killed Hakimullah Mehsud, the leader of the radical Islamist group.

According to USA Today:

The militant group vowed to continue their campaign.

"This is just the beginning," Shahidullah Shahid, spokesman for the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) told the Express Tribune, a Pakistani daily.

Nevertheless, the Obama administration believes that talking to the Taliban, negotiating with them, and even returning senior officials is a good policy.

Details remain unclear, but the attackers may have set on fire tanks used to store aviation fuel, as Pakistani TV showed pictures of huge fires, and they apparently attempted to take control of airliners on the ground that were boarding passengers.

No Western airlines fly to Karachi anymore owing to the security issues there, unless you count Turkish Airlines. British Airways suspended service some time ago, despite the existence of a huge market linking Pakistani immigrants in the UK with their homeland.