x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Taliban militants masqueraded as police before slaying 9 tourists and guide

The victims were visiting one of the world's highest mountains near Gilgit in northern Pakistan, an area that has been largely peaceful.

Pakistani police escort ambulances carrying the coffins of foreign tourists as they come out from Chaklala air base in Rawalpindi.
Pakistani police escort ambulances carrying the coffins of foreign tourists as they come out from Chaklala air base in Rawalpindi.

ISLAMABAD // Islamic militants wearing police uniforms shot dead nine foreign tourists and a Pakistani before dawn yesterday.

The victims were visiting one of the world's highest mountains in a remote area of northern Pakistan that has been largely peaceful, officials said.

The foreigners were five Ukrainians, three Chinese and one Russian, said Pakistan's interior minister, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan. One Chinese tourist was wounded in the attack, he said.

The local branch of the Taliban took responsibility for the killings, saying it was to avenge the death of a leader killed in a recent US drone strike.

The attack took place at the base camp of Nanga Parbat, the ninth-highest mountain in the world at 8,126 metres. The gunmen were wearing uniforms used by the Gilgit Scouts, a paramilitary police force that patrols the area, said the interior minister.

The attackers abducted two local guides to find their way to the remote base camp. One of the guides was killed in the shooting, and the other was detained and was being questioned, Mr Khan said.

"The purpose of this attack was to give a message to the world that Pakistan is unsafe for travel," said the interior minister. The National Assembly passed a resolution condemning the incident.

The Pakistani Taliban spokesman, Ahsanullah Ahsan, claimed responsibility for the attack, saying its Jundul Hafsa group carried out the shooting as retaliation for the death of the Taliban's deputy leader, Waliur Rehman, in a US drone attack on May 29.

"By killing foreigners, we wanted to give a message to the world to play their role in bringing an end to the drone attacks," Mr Ahsan said.

At least a dozen gunmen were involved in the attack, a police officer, Jahangir Khan, said.

The attackers beat up the Pakistanis who were accompanying the tourists, took their money and tied them up, said a senior local government official. They checked the identities of the Pakistanis and shot to death one of them, possibly because he was a minority Shiite, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Although Gilgit-Baltistan is a relatively peaceful area, it has experienced attacks by radical Sunnis on Shiites in recent years.

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

The police chief, Barkat Ali, said they first learned of the attack when one of the guides called the police station at about 1am yesterday. The military airlifted the bodies to Pakistan's capital, Islamabad, yesterday afternoon.