Bold Airport Assault in Pakistan Shows Taliban’s Resilience

6/9/14
 
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from The New York Times,
6/9/14:

Only weeks ago, the Pakistani Taliban appeared to be on the ropes. Violent rivalries split the insurgency in two. Peace talks with the government collapsed. Military jets pounded militant hide-outs in the tribal belt.

And so, with a point to prove, the Taliban hit back.

On Sunday night, 10 militant fighters, disguised as government security forces and armed with rocket launchers and suicide vests, stormed the Karachi airport. They came with food, water and ammunition, in apparent preparation for a long siege, but also with big ambitions: perhaps to hijack a commercial airliner, government officials said on Monday, or to blow up an oil depot, or to destroy airplanes on the tarmac.

Paramilitary guards pinned the fighters down in a cargo terminal, in a firefight that blazed through the night. After five hours, as stranded passengers waited anxiously in parked airplanes, it was over, with 29 people dead and the cargo building on fire.

Yet the audacious assault shook the country to its core. It showed how, despite the Taliban’s challenges and deepening divisions, their reach has extended far from their tribal redoubt into Pakistan’s biggest city. With several jihadists from Uzbekistan among the dead, the attack also demonstrated how the Taliban can still draw on an international militant network to conduct sophisticated operations against high-profile targets across the country.

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