The Two-Way
9:43 am
Sun June 23, 2013

Pakistan Gunmen Kill Foreign Climbers In Brazen Attack

Originally published on Mon June 24, 2013 12:05 pm

(This story was last updated at 10:40 a.m. ET)

Armed assailants attacked a hotel at a Himalayan base camp in Pakistan, gunning down nine foreign climbers and a local guide as the group prepared for an ascent of one of the world's tallest peaks.

NPR's Philip Reeves reports that Ukrainians and Chinese climbers, as well as a Pakistani guide, were killed in the attack at 26,246-foot Nanga Parbat, about 150 miles northeast of Pakistan's capital, Islamabad.

Some reports said a Russian climber was also among those killed. Another report said a Chinese climber managed to escape.

A spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, which he said was in retaliation for American drone strikes in the tribal belt of the country's west, according to The New York Times.

Philip says that the militants were reportedly wearing police uniforms when they stormed into the hotel, after finding it with the help of a local guide, whom they'd abducted. They shot dead a second guide.

The Times says the attack "occurred in far-flung Gilgit-Baltistan, a beautiful, mountainous part of northern Pakistan where attacks on foreigners have been rare in recent years, although there has been sporadic sectarian violence."

Reuters quotes a senior official from the Gilgit-Baltistan region as saying that "the gunmen held the staff hostage and then started killing foreign tourists and made their escape."

The news agency says it's the first time foreign tourists have been attacked in Gilgit-Baltistan, "where the convergence of the Hindu Kush, Karakoram and Himalayan ranges has created a stunning landscape explored by only a trickle of the most intrepid mountaineers."

According to The Times:

"... the incident is likely to badly damage what remains of the country's tourism sector. Until now, mountaineers were considered one of the few groups that remained impervious to the perceived perils of visiting Pakistan. ... Sunday's unprecedented attack introduced a new element of risk that is likely to affect such expeditions, at least in the short term."

Nanga Parbat is the world's ninth-tallest peak and Pakistan's second highest, after K-2.

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