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Pakistani Taliban Say Airport Attack Was Aimed at Hijacking a Plane

A Pakistani security official stands guard at the fire-damaged premises of a cold-storage cargo facility at the Jinnah International Airport in Karachi on Tuesday, a day after a terrorist attack at the site. A Pakistani security official stands guard at the fire-damaged premises of a cold-storage cargo facility at the Jinnah International Airport in Karachi on Tuesday, a day after a terrorist attack at the site. (Rizwan Tabassum/AFP/Getty Images)

The Pakistani Taliban claim their goal in Monday's attack on a major international airport was to hijack an airplane and to "destroy" government facilities.

The assault on the Jinnah International Airport in Karachi was ultimately unsuccessful, with authorities asserting that all militants were killed before they could make it to the passenger terminal, Reuters reported. Still, the apparently well thought-out assault -- which involved attackers working in pairs, the use of suicide bombers and a strike on an airport gate to create a diversion -- has sparked fresh concerns about the ability of Pakistani extremists to penetrate government targets.

"The main goal of this attack was to damage the government, including by hijacking planes and destroying state installations," Pakistani Taliban spokesman Shahidullah Shahid said.

Shahid did not say what the Taliban intended to do with any planes they might have seized. Still, the mere mention of a Taliban plot to hijack aircraft could bolster security experts' fears about the possibility of terrorists flying an airplane into a nuclear reactor in order to release large amounts of deadly radiation.

Pakistan is expanding its nuclear weapons program and constructing additional reactors for the production of plutonium. The ability of Pakistan's security establishment to safeguard its nuclear facilities against a feared terrorist attack is a huge focus of U.S. intelligence efforts in the South Asian country, according to information released by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.

"This was just an example of what we are capable of and there is more to come," Shahid said on Monday. "The government should be ready for even worse attacks."

On Tuesday, extremists carried out another assault, this time using gunmen on motorbikes to open fire on a security training center at the Karachi airport. No one was injured in the attack, for which the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility, Reuters separately reported.

Issue specialists interviewed by Defense News said they anticipate the Taliban will carry out a "wave of attacks."

Haris Khan, an analyst with the Pakistan Military Consortium think tank, said he believes atomic sites are a primary target for coming under attack: "My biggest fear is, what if they attack a nuclear installation? How will the world react then?"

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