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Dozens Killed As Militants Attack Pakistani Airport

Pakistani police move an injured officer at Karachi's international airport on June 9 during the battle with militants.
Pakistani officials say a military operation against militants who attacked the country’s busiest airport, in Karachi, ended shortly before dawn after a battle that left at least 26 people dead.

Gunmen stormed the facility shortly before midnight local time on June 8.

An army spokesman, Major General Asim Bajwa, said a total of 10 militants carried out the attack and that they all were killed.

He said the attackers wore the uniforms of security officers and suicide bomber vests.

Pakistan's paramilitary force said some of the attackers were ethnic Uzbeks.

In a phone call to RFE/RL, the Pakistani Taliban -- Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) -- claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was in retaliation for the death of TTP leader Hakimullah Masud in a U.S. drone strike last year.

The attack began when militants stormed into the old terminal firing AK-47 assault rifles at security guards.

That terminal, which is now used as a cargo terminal and for the transit of VIPs, was mostly empty at the time.

But the grenades started a blaze that lit up the night sky as commandos and army troops battled the attackers.

Bajwa denied media reports that the militants destroyed two jet planes at the airport, saying that correspondents had seen aircraft backlit by the terminal fire.

Airport officials said some planes were temporarily grounded with passengers on board.

But they said none of those planes were attacked.

Syed Saim Rizvi, a passenger trapped aboard a United Emirates Airlines plane that was grounded during the battle, said on Twitter that Pakistani commandos had boarded the aircraft.

Rizvi said passengers inside the plane were in a state of panic after hearing huge explosions nearby and the sound of heavy machine guns.

Authorities said later that those explosions were the sounds of the attackers’ suicide vests exploding when they were shot by Pakistani troops.

It was not immediately clear whether there was a link between the attack on Karachi’s airport and a simultaneous suicide attack by four militants in southwestern Pakistan who killed 23 Shi’ite Muslims who had just returned from a pilgrimage in Iran.
With reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP