Suicide attacker killed at Islamabad airport
RAWALPINDI, Pakistan – Police thwarted a suicide attack on the airport serving Pakistan’s capital late Tuesday, officials said. A shootout about 200 yards from the international terminal killed the assailant and wounded three police.It follows a Jan. 26 suicide bombing at Islamabad’s Marriott Hotel and fueled fears that pro-Taliban militants could be targeting Pakistan’s cities in retaliation for a recent army airstrike on an al-Qaida hideout near the Afghan border.Interior Minister Aftab Khan Sherpao said it was the sixth militant attack in the past 15 days – mostly suicide bombings in Pakistan’s northwestern frontier near the Afghan border. “They (the attacks) are interlinked,” he said, without elaborating.Witnesses said the forecourt of the airport terminal was crowded with hundreds of people when the attack happened around 9:10 p.m. Mohammed Sarib, who was at the airport to collect someone arriving on a flight, said he saw a man exchanging fire with security officials. “That man later blew himself up,” he told The Associated Press.The attack disrupted some domestic flights at the airport, located in Islamabad’s twin city of Rawalpindi, but airport manager Ashfaq Hussain said the first scheduled international flight was due to take off as planned early Wednesday.Sherpao said the attacker arrived at the airport in a yellow cab, was challenged by airport security, got out of the car, opened fire with a pistol and threw a grenade. After an exchange of fire, the attacker dropped a second grenade that exploded, killing him.Interior Ministry Secretary Kamal Shah said the assailant had explosives strapped to his body that did not detonate.A security official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment to journalists, said the taxi driver told investigators that he had picked up the attacker at a toll booth on the outskirts of Islamabad.The attacker, who appeared to be a Pashtun tribesman in his 30s, had a thick, bushy beard, an Associated Press reporter saw. He had a bullet wound in the chest and deep wounds in the legs and groin, but the body was intact.Police taped off the area and closed all gates leading to the airport. Some cars in the parking lot had shattered windshields.Moravet Ali Shah, deputy-inspector general of Rawalpindi police, would not say whether any officials had been expected later on Tuesday night.He said one policeman and two airport security guards were wounded in the attack, one seriously.Security measures in Islamabad and its airport, about seven miles away, are among the tightest in the country.However, in December 2003, al-Qaida bombers targeted President Gen. Pervez Musharraf twice within 11 days in Rawalpindi, which houses the headquarters of Pakistan’s army. Musharraf escaped unhurt but at least 16 other people were killed.—–Associated Press writers Anjum Naveed and Andrew Drake contributed to this report.