- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 8, 2014

Heavily armed gunmen attacked Pakistan’s busiest airport late Sunday, killing 13 people and touching off a gunfight with police and military commandos, according to reports.

Security personnel surrounded the Jinnah International Airport in Karachi, evacuated the staff and closed off entrances as dark clouds of smoke billowed from what appeared to be a fire coming from the terminal.

Flights were diverted to other airports as the sky grew bright with flames and the sound of grenades and gunfire shook the area.

“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,” Civil Aviation Authority spokesman Abid Qaimkhani told Agence-France Presse.

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

The 13 killed in the attack included seven security officers, one employee of the Civil Aviation Authority and another employee from the state-run Pakistan International Airlines, according to the Associated Press.

“I was working at my office when I heard big blasts—several blasts—and then there were heavy gunshots,” Sarmad Hussain, an official with Pakistan International Airlines, told the AP.

About 10 gunmen were reportedly involved, and although no group had claimed responsibility Sunday, speculation was that the attack may be related to the lack of progress in talks between the government and militant groups.

The Pakistani Taliban and its allies have become increasingly entrenched in Karachi, a sprawling port city and the economic center of Pakistan. The city has been the site of frequent bouts of unrest and attacks by Taliban and other militants, most recently the 2011 siege on a naval base that lasted 18 hours and claimed 10 lives.

The airport is used for business and commercial travel, but the attack occurred at a terminal used for cargo, VIPs and pilgrims traveling to Mecca.

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