06/09/2014, 00.00
PAKISTAN
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Islamist assault on Karachi airport: 24 dead, over 20 injured

Yesterday evening, an armed group stormed the main airport of the southern Pakistani city. The operation was claimed by the Taliban, in response to the killing of their leader. Local sources speak of one of the most "brazen" and "sensational" attacks by extremists. New clashes at dawn this morning.

Karachi (AsiaNews / Agencies) - This morning, clashes resumed in the main airport of Karachi, in the southern province of Sindh, between Pakistani security forces and fundamentalist groups. Yesterday an attack by gunmen killed at least 24 people, most of whom were airport employees and security personnel, and wounded more than 20. Ten of the victims were extremist militants, killed during a six hour shoot out with the military. " "We have relaunched the operation and called in additional troops," said Sibtain Rizvi, spokesman for the Rangers paramilitary force.

The first phase of the violent clashes at Jinnah International Airport in Karachi began late last night and continued until dawn. Equipped with suicide vests, grenades and rocket launchers, they battled security forces in what local media have described as one of the most brazen attacks in years in Pakistan's biggest city.

The assault again raises the issue of security in the Asian nation; The Pakistani Taliban have claimed responsibility for the attack, in response to the killing of chief Hakimullah Mehsud in a U.S. drone attack last November. It also follows the deadlock of peace talks between Islamabad and Taliban groups. Local officials report that it appeared the militants had aimed to hijack a plane that passengers were boarding at the main terminal, but that when they were repelled they "went on the rampage".

The government launched peace talks with the Taliban in January, followed by the presentation last month of the first Code of Conduct on national security. Neither initiative stopped the spiral of Islamic extremist violence that has bloodied the country for some time now. If, on the one hand, the TTP has vowed to respect the cease- fire, on the other, Taliban militia groups have attacked institutions, police stations and military targets on several occasions. In response, the army has carried out a series of raids in the tribal areas against Islamist strongholds.

The truce between the government and Taliban expired on April 16 , but the Islamists have confirmed their intention to continue negotiations. Moreover, in the context of the talks, the Taliban demand the release of hundreds of prisoners, the army's withdrawal from the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan and the introduction of Islamic law (sharia).

With a population of more than 180 million people (97 per cent Muslim), Pakistan is the sixth most populous country in the world, the second largest Muslim nation after Indonesia. About 80 per cent of Muslims are Sunni, whilst Shias are 20 per cent. Hindus are 1.85 per cent, followed by Christians (1.6 per cent) and Sikhs (0.04 per cent). Violence against ethnic and religious minorities is commonplace across the country, with Shia Muslims and Christians as the main target, with things getting worse. Violence against ethnic or religious minorities is commonplace across the country, from the province of Punjab in the north to Karachi in the southern province of Sindh, where more than 2,200 people were killed in the first eight months of 2012.

 

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