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Attack on Pakistan's Karachi airport leaves 23 dead, including 10 militants

Published on Jun 9, 2014 9:17 AM

ISLAMABAD (REUTERS/AFP) - Gunmen attacked one of Pakistan's biggest airports on Sunday and at least 23 people were killed, including all 10 of the attackers, media reported.

The attack on Jinnah International Airport in Karachi, Pakistan's sprawling commercial hub of 18 million people, took place as Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's government tries to engage Pakistani Taleban militants in negotiations to end years of fighting.

Gun battles went on for several hours and television pictures showed fire raging at the airport as ambulances ferried casualties away, but by dawn on Monday, the army said the airport had been secured.

"Update: Area cleared. No damage to aircraft, fire visible in pics was not plane but a building, now extinguished. All vital assets intact," said Major General Asim Bajwa.

A policeman with a gun stands on a vehicle as smoke bellows from Jinnah International airport in Karachi on June 9, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

Bajwa added that a total of 10 militants were killed in clashes with security forces, and that ammunition, rockets and RPGs were recovered from the attackers, who wore "big packs".

"(The attackers) were confined to two areas and eliminated," the Dawn newspaper cited Bajwa as saying.

"Precautionary sweep after day light. Airport will be cleared by mid day for operations, handed back to CAA (Civil Aviation Authority)/ASF (Airport Security Force). Pakistan Zindabad (long live Pakistan)!" he later tweeted.

Pakistan's army had been at the forefront of the operation along with paramilitary rangers, police and the airport's security force.

The statement put to rest fears about a prolonged assault of the kind seen on key installations, including a Karachi naval base and the army headquarters in Rawalpindi, in recent years.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but Pakistani Taleban militants, allied with but separate from the Afghan Taleban, are battling to overthrow the Pakistani state and impose their hardline vision of Islamist rule.

Earlier, officials said all flights had been diverted.

Peace talks between the government and the Pakistani Taleban have failed in recent months, dampening hopes of reaching a negotiated settlement with the insurgency, which continues attacks against government and security targets.