Armed assailants attacked 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.
Reuters reports that five Ukrainians, three Chinese, a Russian and a Pakistani guard were killed in the attack at 26,246-foot Nanga Parbat, about 150 miles northeast of Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad.
One Chinese climber managed to escape when 15 militants hit the camp in a nighttime raid, police said.
A spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility, 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.
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 when the killing spree began, the intruders shot dead a Pakistani guard with the tourists and held other workers at gunpoint.
“The gunmen held the staff hostage and then started killing foreign tourists and made their escape,” the official said.
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.”