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U.S. Offers Help in Pakistan’s Airport Probe

by AFP
Army personnel stand guard at the Karachi airport after an assault that left at least 35 dead. Rizwan Tabassum—AFP

Army personnel stand guard at the Karachi airport after an assault that left at least 35 dead. Rizwan Tabassum—AFP

State Department deputy spokeswoman says Islamabad has responsibility to take appropriate counterterrorism measures.

The United States on Monday offered to aid Pakistan in investigating a deadly siege on Karachi airport and denounced the assault, which left at least 35 people dead.

“The United States condemns the attack on the Karachi airport. And our hearts go out … to the families of the victims and those who were wounded in that attack,” said White House spokesman Josh Earnest.

Washington has offered “assistance to the relevant Pakistani authorities investigating this crime,” added State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf, although she was not aware if the offer had been taken up.

The assault has left Pakistan’s nascent peace process with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in tatters and officials in the northwest reported that some 25,000 people had fled a restive tribal district in the past 48 hours, fearing a long-awaited ground offensive.

Ten militants were among the dead in the siege of Karachi’s Jinnah International Airport, the latest spectacular offensive to be launched by the TTP in an insurgency that has claimed thousands of lives since 2007.

The TTP said the brazen attack was its latest revenge for the killing of its leader Hakimullah Mehsud in a U.S. drone strike in November. TTP spokesman Shahidullah Shahid said the government had used peace talks as a ruse, and promised more attacks to come in retaliation against recent airstrikes in the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan.

Harf would not comment on the use of airstrikes to quell the insurgency, but said the U.S. and Pakistan both had concerns about counter-terrorism. “Broadly speaking, we have supported the Pakistani government as they’ve undertaken counterterrorism efforts because it’s a fight we certainly share,” she told reporters. “The Pakistani government has a responsibility and an obligation to protect its citizens and to take appropriate counterterrorism measures.”

Washington had advised the Pakistani authorities to “take civilian life into account,” Harf said. “But … the onus here is on these terrorist groups to lay down their arms, to stop attacking innocent Pakistani and other civilians,” Harf added.

In a separate statement, United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon also condemned that attack and called on the government to address terrorism and religious extremism.

Ban also condemned suicide attacks targeting Shia Muslims in Balochistan, which left 24 people dead on Monday.

The U.N. secretary general strongly condemned the two attacks and is “deeply concerned by this upsurge of violence across Pakistan,” his spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in a statement. “While acknowledging the measures already taken to maintain security, he urges the government of Pakistan to further increase its efforts to address terrorism and religious extremism, including with a view to protecting the rights of all people to safely practice their religion, and to bring the perpetrators of such attacks to justice,” the spokesman added.

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