Tuesday 20 February 2018

Taliban gunmen posing as police kill tourists in revenge attack for US strike

Hospital staff and rescue workers move the body of one of the nine tourists killed at Nanga Parbat in Islamabad, Pakistan
Hospital staff and rescue workers move the body of one of the nine tourists killed at Nanga Parbat in Islamabad, Pakistan

Rob Crilly in Islamabad

NINE foreign tourists and their local guide were shot dead by Taliban gunmen dressed as policemen who had forced their way into a climbing camp during the night in a remote northern region of Pakistan.

Officials said that five Ukrainians, three Chinese and one Russian were killed in the attack on Saturday night.

Another Chinese tourist survived the raid at the base camp of Nanga Parbat, the ninth highest mountain in the world at 26,660ft, in an area renowned for its breathtaking Himalayan scenery and world-class trekking.

Both the Pakistan Taliban, an umbrella militant group, and a sectarian Sunni group linked to the Taliban claimed responsibility.

Ehsanullah Ehsan, a spokesman for the Pakistan Taliban, said the movement had set up a cell to target foreigners.

He said the operation was carried out in revenge for the death of Wali-ur-Rehman, the group's second in command who was killed by a US drone strike last month.

"This operation was also in reaction to the continuing drone attacks by the US," he added. "The foreign tourists were targeted so that we could get our protests heard at the international level."

Police officers in Gilgit-Baltistan said the gunmen wore uniforms of the Frontier Constabulary, the local security force.

Eyewitnesses counted a dozen militants in the attack on the tented camp, several hours' trek from the nearest road in an area not previously associated with violence or Islamist militancy.

They woke the tourists shortly after midnight and beat local staff before opening fire.

The attackers checked the identities of Pakistanis with the group and killed one, possibly because he was a member of the minority Shia community.

"They abducted two guides and through them reached the area. One guide was killed in the shootout. One is alive. He is now detained and being questioned," said Chaudhry Nisar, Pakistan's interior minister.

Gilgit-Baltistan borders China and Kashmir and is considered one of the safer areas of Pakistan. The area's views across the western edge of the Himalayas make it a popular destination for foreign walkers and climbers.

Last year, the Pakistan military airlifted 120 foreign tourists from the area after they became stranded amid a wave of violence. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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