Taliban Kill Four Pakistani Soldiers After Airport Attack Repulsed

Pakistani Rangers attend the funeral of their comrade who was killed during an operation against suspected militants at Jinnah International Airport in Karachi. EPA/SHAHZAIB AKBER

By Zia Khan (DPA)

ISLAMABAD (DPA) —  A suicide car bomber killed four soldiers and wounded seven others in Pakistan's north-western tribal region on Monday, hours after the country's busiest airport was attacked by Islamist extremists.

"Four soldiers have been killed in an attack on a check post in North Waziristan," a military's statement said.

Earlier in the day flights resumed at Karachi International Airport in southern Pakistan after security forces repulsed an attack by Taliban fighters in an overnight gun battle that left 31 people dead.

"A domestic flight has just taken off for Islamabad" from the airport, civil aviation chief Shujaat Azeem announced, 16 hours after gunmen stormed the facility.

All 10 of the gunmen were among the 31 killed during the five-hour battle between security forces and Taliban militants, said General Rizwan Akhtar, the chief of the paramilitary Rangers force.

The Pakistani Taliban said their fighters carried out both the gun and bomb attack at the airport and the car bombing to avenge the killing of "innocent" people in airstrikes by security forces.

"It is a message to the Pakistan government that we are still alive," Taliban spokesman Shahidullah Shahid said after the first attack.

Around 100 Islamist militants, including some key Taliban commanders, were killed in May when Pakistani fighter jets pounded insurgents' hideouts in their tribal stronghold.

Fourteen members of the security forces and seven civilians were among the dead in the airport attack, said doctor Seemi Jamali at the city's Jinnah Medical Institute.

At least 25 people with bullet injuries were brought to the hospital, she said. Five of them were in a critical condition.

Analysts said the siege of the airport showed the Taliban still had the ability to stage spectacular attacks, despite setbacks in recent months, including the defection of a major faction.

"It is a statement by militants that they can still operate at will," said Irfan Shehzad, lead researcher at the Islamabad-based Institute of Policy Studies think tank.

"It reflects how grave the security risk is for Pakistan as international forces prepare to leave Afghanistan at the end of this year," Shehzad said.

Much of the Taliban network is believed to operate out of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region.

Karachi is Pakistan's most populous city and the capital of Sindh province.

Akhtar said terrorists wearing suicide vests and dressed in police uniform entered the airport in two groups of five and set ablaze a terminal used for cargo.

Seven of them were killed in a gun battle with military commandos, while three blew themselves up when surrounded by soldiers, he added.

The Pakistani Taliban have launched similar attacks in the past, but mostly against military facilities. In 2011, militants laid siege to the city's naval base for 18 hours, killing at least 10 people.

The Taliban have been waging a deadly insurgency since 2003 in Pakistan, killing over 40,000.

The government airstrikes in May came after months of efforts to engage the Taliban in a peace process ended without any significant headway.