A picture dated 08 February 2011 shows a general view of Jinnah International Airport in Karachi, Pakistan. Suspected Islamic militants armed with hand grenades and automatic weapons attacked the Jinnah International Airport, killing at least four airport security personnel while two attackers were killed A picture dated 08 February 2011 shows a general view of Jinnah International Airport in Kara
A picture dated 08 February 2011 shows a general view of Jinnah International Airport in Karachi, Pakistan. Suspected Islamic militants armed with hand grenades and automatic weapons attacked the Jinnah International Airport, killing at least four airport security personnel while two attackers were killed A picture dated 08 February 2011 shows a general view of Jinnah International Airport in Kara INM

Tit-for-tat terror attacks hit Pakistan overnight

MILITANTS disguised as police officers stormed an airport terminal used for VIPs in Pakistan's largest city, Karachi, on Sunday night, killing at least nine people and starting a major fire.

The attackers, who were said to be wearing bomb vests, threw grenades as they forced their way into Jinnah International Airport. The military said they had killed three of the gunmen and were looking for others.

Several loud explosions were heard and the fighting appeared to be ongoing early on Monday morning local time. At one point flames could be seen close to two passenger jets, but it was unclear if anyone was on board.

The attack came amid reports that at least 23 Shia pilgrims were killed last night in an attack on the border of Pakistan and Iran. Officials told the Hindustan Times that the pilgrims' bus was attacked in Taftan, Pakistan, by suicide bombers and gunmen as it returned from visiting Muslim holy sites in Iran.

Nearly 1,000 Shia Muslims, who make up about 20 per cent of the country's population, have been killed in Pakistan in the past two years.

The attack in Karachi happened at a terminal not generally used for commercial flights but for special VIP flights and for cargo.

Sarmad Hussain, who works for airline Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), told The Associated Press that he and a colleague had jumped out of a window to get away and his colleague broke his leg.

"I was working at my office when I heard big blasts - several blasts - and then there were heavy gunshots," he said.

Dr Seemi Jamali, of Jinnah Hospital in Karachi, said nine bodies had been brought so far to the hospital from the fighting. She said seven of the dead were from the Airport Security Force, one was an employee of the Civil Aviation Authority and another was a PIA worker. At least 14 people had been wounded.

An official who spoke to journalists near the airport said at least some of the militants were wearing Airport Security Force uniforms and all were strapped with explosives.

He said one of them tried to capture a vehicle used by the Civil Aviation Authority and, when a guard shot at him, the explosives strapped to his body went off. The official said another attacker's bomb vest blew up after he was shot at by security forces.

At least two domestic planes were diverted with all flights cancelled until at least Monday night.

Karachi has been the site of frequent militant attacks in the past. It is the country's economic heart and any militant activity targeting the airport likely would strike a heavy blow at foreign investment in the country.

In May 2011, militants waged an 18-hour siege at a naval base in Karachi, killing 10 people in an assault that deeply embarrassed its armed forces.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Sunday night's attack. Pakistan's government has been trying to negotiate a peace deal with local Taliban fighters and other militants mostly based in the North-west who have been waging war against the government. But the talks have had little success, raising fears of a backlash of attacks across the country.


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