Pakistan’s army launched a long-expected military operation in the troubled North Waziristan region today, a week after the deadly insurgent attack on Karachi airport.
The Taliban and ethnic Uzbek fighters in North Waziristan – home to some of Pakistan’s most feared militants and al-Qa’ida commanders – have both claimed responsibility for last Sunday’s airport attack.
The all-night assault all but destroyed prospects of peace talks with the militants, who are fighting to topple the Pakistani government and impose a strict Sharia-based theocracy in the nuclear-armed nation.
“Our valiant armed forces have been tasked to eliminate these terrorists regardless of hue and colour, along with their sanctuaries,” the army said in a statement.
“With the support of the entire nation, and in co-ordination with other state institutions and law enforcement agencies, these enemies of the state will be denied space anywhere across the country.”
In pictures: Karachi airport attack
In pictures: Karachi airport attack
Pakistani airport security staff help an injured airlines employee (C) to leave a terminal following attacks by gunmen the Jinnah International Airport in Karachi
Pakistani police officers display confiscated ammunition and the dead bodies of terrorists who attacked the Jinnah International Airport in Karachi
Pakistan's security forces said they have relaunched a military operation at Karachi airport as gunfire resumed several hours after they announced the end of a militant siege that left many dead
Smoke billows from inside the Jinnah International Airport, after suspected Islamic militants attacked the airport in Karachi
Pakistani policemen show seized weapons after militants attacked Jinnah International Airport in Karachi
Rescue workers move a soldier, who was wounded in an attack at Jinnah International Airport, outside Jinnah hospital in Karachi
A Pakistani security personnel arrange seized weapons after militants attacked Jinnah International Airport in Karachi
Gunmen disguised as police guards attacked a terminal at Pakistan's busiest airport with machine guns and a rocket launcher during a five-hour siege as explosions echoed into the night, while security forces retaliated and killed all the attackers
Pakistani Rangers secure the boundary wall after suspected militants attacked Jinnah International Airport in Karachi
Hundreds of army and police personnel had been locked in battles with ten heavily armed attackers who have taken positions in different areas inside the country's largest airport in Karachi
All flight operations have been suspended for 24 hours at the airport in Karachi
The attack on the airport and the claiming of responsibility by the Taliban will present another challenge for Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, whose government has been involved in faltering efforts to establish a ceasefire and peace agreement with the militants
The attack on Karachi's Jinnah International Airport was launched by around 10 gunmen wearing military uniform who shot their way into the facility, located in the east of the port city. Ten hours later, with smoke billowing from the premises, security forces were still conducting patrols to ensure all the militants had been killed or captured
Pakistani security officials take positions after suspected militants attacked Jinnah International Airport in Karachi
Fire illuminates the sky above Karachi airport terminal where security forces are fighting with attackers
It was not immediately clear where in North Waziristan the operation was taking place nor what kind of military equipment was being used.
The army has resorted to periodic air strikes against militant positions but has not been involved on the ground.
Earlier, fighter jets pounded militant hideouts in the region, killing at least 80 insurgents.
The army said ethnic Uzbeks accounted for most of those killed in the latest air assault.
It was not immediately known whether there were any civilian casualties. Journalists’ movements are restricted in the ethnic Pashtun region where the army has imposed a curfew.
“Fighter jets targeted militant hideouts in the village of Dagan near the Pakistani-Afghan border,” said one source in the regional capital of Miranshah.