Operation Karachi airport — a five-hour seige that claimed 29 lives

The Express Tribune takes its readers to the Old Terminal on Sunday night.

Faraz Khan June 10, 2014
People who work at the Karachi airport were unable to vacate the facility until Monday morning after the armed forces swept the area clean of militants. PHOTO: AFP


At approximately 11:05pm on Sunday, the first round of gunfire was reported at the Fokker gate that leads into the Old Terminal at the Karachi airport. The terminal is also referred to as the Hajj Terminal or the Cargo Terminal and is largely used for Hajj flights. Contrary to the tight security protocol at Jinnah International Terminal, the security at this terminal is usually quite lax as it does not see a lot of traffic around the year.

On this particular night, an Airport Security Force (ASF) personnel stood guard outside the entryway at Fokker gate. An employee of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) also stood at the other side of the gate. They were the first to be killed by the five militants who tried to enter the airport premises through this gate.

As the terrorists made their way beyond the checkpoint that leads to the maintenance hangar, they shot and killed two more ASF personnel who were on guard duty.

At the same time, another team comprising five terrorists entered the cargo terminal through the offices of the Immediate Clearance Group of Pakistan Customs. This entry point lies a few metres away from the Fokker gate and is once again, not heavily guarded due to its infrequent use.

The assailants shot and killed the two ASF personnel and managed to cut across to the backside of the Gerry’s D’nata office. This is where they stood their ground as they engaged in combat with the ASF personnel.

Alerted to the incident by the incessant gunfire, the police were the first to respond and reached the site about 15 to 20 minutes after the initial attack. They were, however, limited to the outer perimeter of the airport as only the ASF have jurisdiction at airports in the country.

The police were soon followed by Rangers personnel who came in large numbers and coordinated with the ASF personnel to form a strategy to combat the attackers.

Soon after, Army personnel were called in from the nearby Malir Garrison. They joined the personnel of the former two forces in the combat.

In the meantime, all roads leading to the two terminals were barricaded. Media personnel were restricted to an outer perimeter on Star Gate Road, a good distance away from the entrance to the terminal. To these people, information and sounds of gunfire came in sporadic bursts. The media was largely kept in the dark, as if the black smoke rising from the scene beyond the barriers was fogging the information screen. While the senior officials wore brave smiles over their worried looks, the smoke was an ominous sign pointing towards the obvious: that the rising flames and the seven deafening explosions that took place within the first two hours of the attack were reason enough to worry.

Chaos ensued as conflicting reports on the number of assailants, casualties and damage circulated among those present at the site.

In the midst of the confusion, the Karachi Core Commander of the Armed Forces and the Rangers director-general assumed charge of the cleanup operation, directing the forces from the centre-point at the runway.

The elite Special Services Group commandos arrived last at the scene to launch the final offensive. The gunfire had pretty much subsided at this point. The commandos stormed through the entryway in their armoured vehicles, their masked faces reflective of their resolve to finish the escapade as soon as possible.

The airport was finally declared clear of the terrorist threat, five hours and 29 casualties later, at 4:30am.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 10th, 2014.


Gauttum Saxena | 10 years ago | Reply

You know what this means more security guards everyday, 24/7 all around for the travellers safety, the status of the airport.

Patriot.N | 10 years ago | Reply

Why the 10 dead terrorists are being counted in the number of casualties. There are 19 people dead in the attack including 10 ASF guards.

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