ISLAMABAD — Nine foreign climbers from the Ukraine and China were among 10 people killed by gunmen in a late-night attack in Pakistan’s mountainous northern region, the country’s Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan said.
A Pakistani guide was also killed in the June 22 attack on the climbers who were staying at a base camp in the Diamer district in Gilgit-Baltistan, Khan said in parliament today. The Pakistani Taliban claim responsibility for the attack, the Geo television network reported today, citing the group’s spokesman, Ehsanullah Ehsan.
Six Ukrainians and three Chinese were among those killed in the area visited frequently by foreign climbers on Nanga Parbat, the second-highest peak of Pakistan and located in the Himalayan mountain range bordering China. It was the most audacious attack on foreigners in Pakistan since the Marriot Hotel bombing in Islamabad in 2008.
“This is an attack not only on foreigners but on Pakistan, which is in a state of war,” Khan said, blaming security lapses for the attack at a time when militants are intensifying their campaign against civilian and military targets.
The gunmen, who were wearing local scout uniforms, targeted the climbers’ base camp after kidnapping two guides to reach the high-altitude area where normal security procedures for foreign tourists are not available, Khan said. One Chinese climber and a local guide were rescued, he said.
Militants from the Pakistan Taliban and other sectarian groups routinely target the country’s security forces and opposing groups in the region. At least 17 people were killed in sectarian violence in Gilgit-Baltistan in April last year.
The Pakistan Taliban’s aim is to expel Western interests from the country, force the removal of government troops from tribal areas, and establish Islamic law.
A U.S. drone attack on May 29 killed the deputy chief of the Pakistani Taliban, Waliur Rehman, according to a U.S. official who asked not to be named because it was a classified operation. Rehman was involved in the 2009 suicide attack on a Central Intelligence Agency outpost in Afghanistan that killed seven Americans, the State Department said in 2010.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who took over early this month after winning in general elections in May, condemned the killing of the 10 people, terming it an act of “cruelty and inhumanity,” in a statement issued by his office.
Pakistan is making arrangements to return the bodies of the climbers to their countries and is beefing up security at all key installations, Khan said. The interior minister, in his opening remarks in the parliament, had earlier said five Ukranians, three Chinese and one Russian had been killed.
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