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23 Jun, 2013 04:27

Pakistani militants kill 9 tourists and their guide in hotel shooting

Pakistani militants kill 9 tourists and their guide in hotel shooting

A group of militants has stormed a hotel near the base camp of the Nanga Parbat peak in northern Pakistan, killing nine foreign tourists and their guide, Pakistani security officials said.

“Unknown people entered a hotel where foreign tourists were staying last night and opened fire,” Ali Sher, a senior police officer in the northern Gilgit-Baltistan province, told Reuters.

According to the official, the assault on the climbers, who were staying in a small resort close to the base camp of the ninth-highest mountain in the world, happened at around 1:00 am local time (20:00 GMT).

The 15-strong gang dressed in uniforms used by a local paramilitary force shot dead the tourists while holding hotel employees at gunpoint. A Chinese climber managed to flee.

“The gunmen held the staff hostage and then started killing foreign tourists and made their escape,” the official added.

The nationalities of several victims of the attack have been fully confirmed . Authorities in Islamabad say there were three Ukrainians, three Chinese, one with dual American citizenship, two tourists from Slovakia, a Lithuanian, and the group’s sherpa from Nepal. The bodies of the victims will soon be repatriated.

Because there were also reports of one Russian being among the gunned down tourists, Russia's tourism authority, Rostourism, told Itar-Tass that the Russian Federation's consular service in Pakistan was in contact with law enforcement officers.

Pakistani rescuers shift a coffin of a foreign tourist from an ambulance to a hospital in Islamabad on June 23, 2013. (AFP Photo / Farooq Naeem)

The Russian Climbing Federation CEO Aleksey Ovchinnikov said earlier that there were no Russians among the victims of the terrorist attack. However, there are currently two Russian expeditions involving ten people in the Pakistani mountains and these people are being evacuated from the area.

An extremist militant group known as Jundallah claimed that they were behind the attack. The organization has carried out previous deadly attacks on Pakistan’s Shiite Muslim minority population.

"These foreigners are our enemies and we proudly claim responsibility for killing them and will continue such attacks in the future as well," Jundullah spokesman Ahmed Marwat told Reuters by telephone.

Another militant group, Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, has also claimed responsibility for the attack, saying their fighters conducted the killing “to retaliate for the US drone assaults in north-west Pakistan.

“The killing of foreigners in Gilgit (Baltistan province) is called to show the international community the degree of hatred we feel about the Americans attacking our fighters,” Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan told local media.

It has been reported that the personal items and equipment of the murdered climbers were stolen in the attack.

Authorities have deployed a large number of security personnel, as well as helicopters, to the area and have sealed off the crime scene. 

The bodies will have to be recovered by helicopter because of the remoteness of the northern province that borders China and Kashmir, an anonymous official told Reuters.

The mountainous Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistan is comparatively free of violence and one of the countries few tourist destinations. However, the area has seen a recent wave of insurgent attacks, targeting the province’s Shiite Muslim minority.

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