Updated: 06/09/2014 04:44 | By Agence France-Presse

Militants kill five in attack on Pakistan's Karachi airport

Heavily armed militants attacked Pakistan's busiest airport in the southern city of Karachi Sunday night, killing at least five people as flights were suspended and the army was called in, officials said.

Militants kill five in attack on Pakistan's Karachi airport

A Pakistani policeman stands guard in front of the Jinnah International airport in Karachi on May 27, 2007 - by Rizwan Tabassum

The assault on Jinnah International Airport has raised fears about the possibility of a prolonged siege similar to other brazen attacks on key installations in recent years.

A spokesman for the Civil Aviation Authority, Abid Qaimkhani told AFP: "Four to five terrorists have managed to reach the runway, they are heavily armed with ammunition and grenades and Airport Security Force commandos have cordoned off the area along with police and rangers.

"A gun battle is continuing between terrorists and forces," he added.

A paramilitary ranger engaged in the operation said the militants had entered through the Engineering Section of the Pakistan International Airlines near the airport's old terminal. 

"They gunned down the ASF security before entering," he said.

Army spokesman Colonel Nayer said that troops had been deployed from the Malir cantonment near their airport. "They have reached the scene," he said. 

An AFP reporter at the airport said a truck-full of army commandos had arrived and that the gunfire which was previously fierce had now grown sporadic.

Broken glass and used gun magazines littered the engineering section where the first exchange of gunfire had taken place as smoke from grenade attacks began to die down.

- 'I saw the terrorists firing' -

Eye-witness Sarmad Hussain, a PIA employee, told AFP: "I heard fierce firing and then saw the terrorists firing at security forces. I don't know a lot more than that. Thank God I am alive, this is very scary."

A police official who did not wish to be identified said an unexploded rocket-propelled grenade had been recovered.

The director of the city's main Jinnah Hospital, doctor Seemi Jamali told AFP five dead bodies had been brought in and the hospital had declared an emergency.

She added that three were ASF personnel and two were civilian employees of PIA, and that seven others had been wounded.

A spokesman for PIA, Mashud Tajwar added that two domestic flights bound for Karachi had been diverted to nearby airports. 

There has so far been no claim of responsibility for Sunday night's incident but similar raids in the past have been claimed by Taliban militants who rose up against the Pakistani state in 2007 in an insurgency that has claimed thousands of lives.

Taliban gunmen attacked a Karachi naval base in 2011, destroying two US-made Orion aircraft and killing 10 personnel in a 17-hour siege.

Taliban and other militants in uniform carried out a similar raid at Pakistan's military headquarters in the garrison city of Rawalpindi in 2009, leaving 23 dead.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's government began negotiations with the umbrella militant group Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in February, with a ceasefire beginning March 1 but breaking down a month later.

The TTP emerged in response to a raid on a radical mosque in Islamabad, but Islamist violence in the country began to surge in 2004 following the army's deployment in the volatile tribal areas.

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