At the airport, gun battles went on for five hours and television pictures showed fire raging as ambulances ferried casualties away.
At least three loud explosions were heard as militants wearing suicide vests blew themselves up.
Pakistani officials believe that there were 10 attackers and all ten were killed when the military launched a counterattack. Seven were reportedly killed exchanging gunfire with police and soldiers while three of them detonated suicide vests after being cornered by authorities. Although a Pakistani Army spokesman said that they had successfully retaken the airport, smoke from a raging fire in the cargo are was clearly visible from a distance. Although some witnesses reported that aircraft on the ground were damaged or destroyed in the attack, the Army denied that and said the fires were from a fuelling facility that was blown up in the attack.
A spokesman for the Pakistani Tehrek-e-Taliban organization claimed responsibility for the attack, claiming it was retribution for a November 2013 drone strike that killed one of their leaders.
Observers point out that the attack is a blow for Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who had campaigned on reaching a negotiated settlement with the Taliban last year and was hoping to project an image of stability in order to attract more foreign capital and investment to the country.
As a precaution, flights bound for Karachi were diverted elsewhere as the fighting spilled out to the airport's tarmac. An estimated 44,000 passengers travelling domestically and internationally use the airport each day, making it Pakistan's busiest airport. The airport serves Pakistan's largest city and commercial hub of Karachi and underwent extensive renovation and expansion in the 1990s.
Coincidentally, this is not the first time terrorists disguised as security forces launched an attack at Karachi's Jinnah International Airport. In September 1986, Palestinian terrorists disguised as airport security stormed Pan Am Flight 73 while it was on the ground for a scheduled stopover on its flight from Bombay to New York. The flight crew was able to escape, leading to a tense standoff between the hostage-takers and Pakistani commandoes on the ground. As the commandoes were preparing to storm the aircraft, the hijackers opened fire on the aircraft's 380 passengers and crew, killing at least 20.
Elsewhere in Pakistan, at least 30 people were killed in an attack on a hotel in the western border town of Taftan. According to eyewitnesses, a suicide bomber entered the Al Murtaza hotel in the town along the border with Iran and detonated himself among a crowd of Shi'ite pilgrims on Sunday. An individual claiming to be from the banned Jaishul Islam movement claimed responsibility for the hotel bombing in a phone call with reporters from Quetta.