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Karachi's Airport Reopens, One Day After Terrorist Attack

Smoke rises above Jinnah International Airport Monday morning, following a five-hour firefight between security forces and militants. The facility was open for business Monday afternoon.
Shakil Adil

One day after it was the scene of a terrorist assault that left at least 23 people dead, the largest airport in Pakistan reopened for business Monday afternoon.

Gunmen who were reportedly disguised as security guards attacked Karachi's international airport in the middle of the night Sunday, and several explosions were heard in the fighting that followed.

The 10 attackers are among the dead at Jinnah International Airport, officials say. Several airport workers and at least 10 members of the security force also were killed, according to Pakistani media.

Pakistan's Taliban have claimed responsibility for the attack, which sparked a five-hour gun battle and threw travelers' plans into disarray.

Update at 11:30 a.m. ET: Airport Is Open Again

We've updated the top of this post after confirming that the airport did indeed open as planned and flights have resumed.

Our original post continues:

Reports of the number of people killed varied early Monday: Pakistan's Dawn newspaper put the number at 28, while the Geo TV channel said at least 30 were dead.

From Karachi, NPR's Jason Beaubien had this report for our Newscast desk:

"The assault on Karachi's international airport began before midnight and stretched into the early hours of the morning.

"Gunmen armed with assault rifles and rocket propelled grenades shot their way past guards and gained access to the tarmac. Several fires quickly erupted. Local TV showed images of smoke billowing behind the tail fins of jumbo jets. And there were reports of multiple explosions at the facility as security forces battled the militants.

"Officials say all passengers were safely evacuated and incoming flights were diverted to other airports. But it took hours before the gunmen were finally subdued."

Photos from the scene show police officers lining up rows of RPG rounds and other weaponry that was reportedly taken from the attackers.

Dawn had this perspective on the assault's timing:

"The attack all but destroys prospects for significant peace talks with the government of Nawaz Sharif, who came to power last year promising to find a negotiated solution to years of violence.

"Peace talks between the government and the Pakistani Taliban have failed in recent months, dampening hopes of reaching a negotiated settlement with the insurgency, which continues attacks against government and security targets."

Prime Minister Sharif ordered a quick reopening of the airport today. According to Geo TV, the terrorists had hoped to destroy all of the planes at the terminal.

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Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.
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