Pakistani Taliban terrorists (file)
Pakistani Taliban terrorists (file) Reuters

The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility on Monday for a gun battle at the country's largest airport on Sunday night, which left 28 dead.

Terrorists armed with guns, grenades and bomb belts took over the cargo area of Karachi's Jinnah International Airport, in an attack that lasted five hours. 

Among the dead were eight airport security forces members and two Pakistan International Airlines employees, reports CNN. In addition to the 28 deaths, another 24 were reported injured.

The Pakistani military reported that all ten terrorists who took part in the attack were killed, with two of them detonating their suicide bomb belts. In the course of the clashes, a building caught fire, but no planes were reportedly damaged.

There were reports in the local media of a renewed attack on Monday morning, but CNN says officials insisted that the noise was from fire-heated chemical containers exploding, promising that no terrorists were left in the airport.

Pakistani Taliban commander Abdullah Bahar released a statement saying the attack was revenge for the targeted US drone strike that killed the former Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud last November.

"As long as we are breathing, our attacks will be continuing 'til the end of our lives," threatened Bahar.

The Pakistani Taliban, known as Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), has been divided since the death of Mehsud. A tribal council appointed Mullah Fazlullah in Mehsud's place, making him the first leader not to hail from the Mehsud tribe, which constitutes the majority of the terror group.

The appointment led to a schism, with the Mehsud faction announcing last week it was breaking off, saying the TTP leadership had "fallen into the hands of a bunch of conspirators."

As part of the internal divisiveness, senior TTP commander Ashiqullah Mehsud was shot dead last Thursday in what is believed to be an inside job motivated by rivalry between the factions.

TTP has been in a state of insurgency against Pakistan since its founding in 2007 to institute and enforce Sharia Islamic law in the country, in a movement against the government's connections with the West.

The assassinated leader Mehsud had a $5 million bounty placed on his head by the US after appearing in a video with a Jordanian suicide bomber who killed seven CIA employees at a base in Afghanistan in 2009. Mehsud was also believed to be behind a failed car bombing in New York's Times Square in 2010, as well as brazen attacks inside Pakistan.

The Pakistani Taliban is a separate organization to the Afghan Taliban, which recently conducted a controversial prisoner exchange with the US government, although the two share a common ideology.

Join our official WhatsApp group