x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Gunmen execute 9 foreign tourists at Pakistan mountain base camp

The attack took place at the base camp of Nanga Parbat, the ninth highest mountain in the world located in the Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistan.

Nanga Parbat, the ninth highest mountain in the world, where gunmen wearing police uniforms killed nine foreign tourists and one Pakistan. AP Photo/Musaf Zaman Kazmi
Nanga Parbat, the ninth highest mountain in the world, where gunmen wearing police uniforms killed nine foreign tourists and one Pakistan. AP Photo/Musaf Zaman Kazmi

ISLAMABAD // Gunmen wearing police uniforms killed nine foreign tourists and one Pakistani before dawn on Sunday as they were visiting one of the world's highest mountains in northern Pakistan.

The foreigners who were killed were five Ukrainians, three Chinese and one Russian, said Pakistani Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan. One Chinese tourist was rescued, he said. Earlier reports indicated 11 foreign tourists were killed.

The attack took place at the base camp of Nanga Parbat, the ninth highest mountain in the world. It's unclear if they were planning to climb the mountain or were just visiting the base camp, which is located in the Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistan.

The shooting is likely to damage the country's struggling tourism industry. Pakistan's mountainous north - considered until now relatively safe - is one of the main attractions in a country beset with insurgency and other political instability.

The gunmen were wearing uniforms used by the Frontier Constabulary, a paramilitary police force that patrols the area, said a senior local government official. The attackers beat up the Pakistanis who were accompanying the tourists, took their money and tied them up, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to talk to the media.

They checked the identities of the Pakistanis and shot to death one of them, possibly because he was a Shiite Muslim, said the official. Although Gilgit-Baltistan is a relatively peaceful area, it has experienced attacks by radical Sunni Muslims on Shiites in recent years.

The attackers took the money and passports from the foreigners and then gunned them down, said the official. It's unclear how the Chinese tourist who was rescued managed to avoid being killed.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Many foreign tourists stay away from Pakistan because of the perceived danger of visiting a country that is home to a large number of Islamic militant groups, such as the Taliban and Al Qaeda, which mostly reside in the north-west near the Afghan border. But a relatively small number of intrepid foreigners visit Gilgit-Baltistan during the summer to marvel at the peaks of the Himalayan and Karakoram ranges, including K2, the second highest mountain in the world.

Syed Mehdi Shah, the chief minister of Gilgit-Baltistan, condemned the attack and expressed fear that it would seriously damage the region's tourism industry.

"A lot of tourists come to this area in the summer, and our local people work to earn money from these people," said Mr Shah. "This will not only affect our area, but will adversely affect all of Pakistan."

Mr Shah said authorities are still trying to get more information about exactly what happened to the tourists. The area where the attack occurred, Bunar Nala, is only accessible by foot or on horseback, and communications can be difficult, said Mr Shah. Bunar Nala is on one of three routes to reach Nanga Parbat, he said.