An Emirates plane was on the ground with crew and passengers onboard when Taliban militants disguised as security forces stormed Pakistan's busiest airport on Sunday in a terrorist attack believed to have killed at least 28 people.
As both Etihad and Emirates confirmed flight delays as a result of the deadly attack, an Emirates spokesperson said that “under the guidance of the Pakistan military the passengers and crew disembarked the aircraft and were taken to a secure area of the terminal”.
The EK603 Karachi to Dubai service was cancelled, with passengers reportedly said to be rebooked on alternative Emirates flights once the airport reopened.
Etihad said it had delayed flight EY221 from Abu Dhabi to Karachi on Sunday and flight EY222 from Karachi to Abu Dhabi on Monday.
The assault on Jinnah International Airport in Karachi, Pakistan's sprawling commercial hub of 18 million people, all but destroys prospects for peace talks between the Taliban and the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who came to power last year promising to find a negotiated solution to years of violence, Reuters reported.
It also deals a heavy blow to Sharif's efforts to attract more foreign investors to revive economic growth and raises questions about security at the country's key installations.
The attack began just before midnight when 10 gunmen wearing military uniforms shot their way into the airport's old terminal used mainly for charter and executive flights.
Gun battles raged through the night until security forces regained control of the airport at dawn. However, local reports suggest gunfire had resumed Monday morning. Passengers were evacuated and all flights were diverted.
The Pakistani Taliban, an alliance of insurgent groups fighting to topple the government and set up a sharia state, claimed responsibility, saying it was in response to army attacks on their strongholds along the Afghan border.
"It is a message to the Pakistan government that we are still alive to react over the killings of innocent people in bomb attacks on their villages," said Shahidullah Shahid, a Taliban spokesman.
Emirates, which operates four daily flights to Karachi, has asked passengers to continue monitoring its website for updates on flights.
12:34pm, June 8: An Emirates spokesperson said: “Due to the closure of Jinnah International Airport in Karachi on Sunday 8th June, EK603, the Karachi to Dubai service, was cancelled. Under the guidance of the Pakistan Military the passengers and crew disembarked the aircraft and were taken to a secure area of the terminal. When the airport reopens all passengers will be rebooked on to alternate Emirates flights to continue their journey. The closure of the airport will affect other Emirates services on this route and passengers are reminded to check on www.emirates.com for flight status updates. Emirates apologises for the inconvenience caused. The safety of our passengers and crew is of utmost importance and will not be compromised.”