Sunday, June 23, 2013

Pakistan: Nine Foreign Tourists, Local Guide Killed Near Nanga Parbat Mountain

According to AFP and Reuters, five Ukrainians, three Chinese nationals (one of whom had dual US-Chinese citizenship) and one Russian along with a local Pakistani guide were killed at a mountain base camp in Gilgit-Baltistan early on Sunday (June 23). A Pakistani army helicopter transported the nine bodies of the victims to Gilgit Airport. 

Police reported that some sixteen gunmen men wearing the uniforms of a local security force attacked the base camp at 0100 hours, as they rested at the base camp of Nanga Parbat, the ninth tallest mountain in the world.

Pakistanis supporting the foreign tourists were held at gunpoint while the tourists were robbed of their passports and valuables and killed. One Chinese tourist managed to escape.

The gunmen, claiming to be members of the Taliban, said that the attack was in revenge for US drone strikes, although none of the victims were US citizens.

Ehsnaullah Ehsan, spokesman for the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), told the Express Tribune that the attack was carried out by a previously unheard of Taliban faction called Junud-e-Hafsa. He said it was a revenge attack for the May murder of Wali-ur-Rehman, the TTP's second most senior commander.

COMMENT:  As I have repeatedly advised over the years, NO tourists of any nation, should be visiting Pakistan, regardless of how immune some parts of the country may be perceived to be from hostile elements. The fact is that all foreigners are on Taliban target lists.

In an unusual and prompt move, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, immediately fired Gilgit-Baltistan's police chief and another senior provincial official.

Muhammad Ami Rana, director of the Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies, said he suspected Junud-e-Hafsa probably did not exist as a genuine component of the Taliban, but was simply a name given to local militants for the purpose of the operation.

The killing of Chinese tourists will be of particular concern for Pakistan, which cherishes its strong strategic relationship with China as a vital balance to US influence in the region. Only last month the Chinese premier, Li Keqiang, visited Pakistan as part of regional tour.

Nanga Parbat, located in Baltistan, is the ninth tallest mountain in the world and has a summit elevation of 8,126 meters (26,660 feet).