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Cathay Pacific cancels Karachi flights

(Reuters) – Cathay Pacific Airways has cancelled all flights to the Pakistani city of Karachi from Bangkok following a Taliban raid on the country’s busiest airport this week, as top Pakistani officials debated how to tackle the escalating violence.

International flights in and out of Karachi have been suspended twice since Sunday, when gunmen wearing military uniforms stormed the airport, firing rocket-propelled grenades in an all-night siege that killed 34 people.

“We will continue to monitor the situation closely,” Cathay said in a statement. “Customers are recommended to check flight status before departing for the airport.”

Cathay Pacific 0293.HK shares closed down 0.14 percent at HK$14.48 on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.

In Islamabad, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif chaired a meeting with security officials late on Tuesday to discuss how to handle the crisis as the escalation of violence raised the prospects of an all-out army campaign against insurgent strongholds.

The Pakistani Taliban, a loose alliance of insurgent groups united by anti-state Jihadist ideology, said they had carried out the Karachi attack in response to strikes on their positions on the Afghan border.

Adding an international dimension to the events, Pakistani officials said ethnic Uzbek fighters were behind the attack and a report by a Pakistani monitoring website quoted an Uzbek commander as claiming responsibility.

“Usman Ghazi, the leader of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), claimed responsibility for Sunday’s terrorist attack,” said the site, Pakistan Risk.

The IMU is a group allied with the Taliban which has often carried out attacks alongside it.

“The Uzbek militant group, which has been based in Pakistan’s tribal areas since 2002, describes the attacks as revenge for Pakistani airstrikes in North Waziristan on May 21 that targeted areas populated by Uzbek and other foreign militants,” Pakistan Risk said.

Earlier, the Taliban’s central command also claimed responsibility for the attack.