Peshawar:  A major catastrophe was narrowly averted when shots fired by unknown gunmen on a Pakistani passenger plane as it was landing at the airport here failed to cause damage to the aircraft but killed a woman passenger and injured two crew members, officials said today.

The Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flight PK756, carrying 178 passengers from Riyadh in Saudi Arabia to Peshawar, was fired upon for two minutes before landing at the Bacha Khan International airport last night.

A woman passenger was killed and two flight stewards- Wajid and Ijaz- were injured.

A police official said the shots could have been fired from a nearby residential area which is close to the airport. Authorities were scouring the area to find the attacker.

Wajid, who sustained bullet injuries in his leg, said the Boeing plane was at an altitude of 250 to 300 feet height when gunshots hit the aircraft at the back side.

Luckily Captain Tariq Chaudhry safely landed the plane at the airport and averted a catastrophe. The fire shots came from the adjacent Tehkal area side, he said.

His colleague flight steward Ijaz received three bullet wounds and shifted to CMH Peshawar and was being operated upon, Wajid said.

“When the plane was about to land, we heard shots and suddenly there was chaos in the flight,” a passenger was quoted as saying by Dunya TV.

Senior Superintendent of Police Najeeb ur Rehman Bhagvi said the plane was about 300 feet off the ground when someone pened fire on it with a sub-machine gun or an AK-47.

“Credit goes to the pilot that he managed to land safely,” he said.

Muhammad Faisal, a senior police official in Peshawar, said the forensic report found that eight AK-47 bullets were fired on the plane, hitting it in the tail section.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility but the Taliban militants have in the past targeted the airports.

On July 8, around 10 terrorists stormed the old Karachi airport terminal building in which 29 people were killed and security forces also gunned down all the terrorists.

There has been a high security alert at all airports around the country since the military started an offensive against foreign and local terrorists in North Waziristan.

Flight operations at Peshawar airport resumed today after being temporarily suspended following last night’s terrorist attack on the plane, the Civil Aviation Authority said.

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