Gunmen fired on a passenger plane as it was landing at the Bacha Khan International Airport Tuesday night, killing a woman and injuring two others, including a crew member, officials said.
Pakistan International Airlines flight PK-756 with 178 passengers and crew members on board was travelling from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, an official of the national flag carrier told The Express Tribune.
“Unknown gunmen fired a volley of bullets at the airplane when it was preparing to land at the airport,” SP Cantt Faisal Kamran said. “The gunmen fired at the airplane from outside the airport vicinity,” he said, quashing speculation that the airport might have been attacked.
The PIA official who spoke to The Express Tribune on condition of anonymity added that the plane was attacked while flying at low altitude near Landi Akhum Ahmad area. He added that the plane was damaged in the attack.
“A flight steward and two passengers were injured who were driven to the nearby Combined Military Hospital (CMH) where the woman, Mrs Maknon, succumbed to her injuries,” he said. The injured were identified as Ijaz (flight steward) and Majid (passenger).
SP Kamran also confirmed the casualties. He said that they have launched a manhunt in the area for the attackers.
The Civil Aviation Authority briefly suspended flight operation at the airport while Pakistan Army troops threw a security cordon around the area.
The attack came days after Pakistan Army launched a massive operation against homegrown and foreign militants holed up in North Waziristan Agency. The operation, codenamed Zarb-e-Azb, was initiated five days after 10 heavily-armed terrorists mounted a brazen attack on Karachi’s Jinnah International Airport.
Over a dozen people – mostly Airport Security Force personnel – were killed in the ensuing hours-long gunfight. All 10 terrorists were also killed.
The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) had claimed responsibility for the attack which it said was a revenge for a deadly air raid in North Waziristan.
This was not the first attack at the Peshawar airport which is located in the cantonment area. On December 16, 2012, a group of militants – armed with automatic weapons and suicide vest – rammed an explosive-laden vehicle into the peripheral wall of the airport before making an unsuccessful attempt to storm the airport.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 25th, 2014.