http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/wo ... 6668386762
PAKISTAN'S Taliban movement has claimed responsibility after nine foreign mountaineers and their Pakistani guide, on an expedition to one of the world's highest and most treacherous peaks, were shot dead early today when gunmen stormed their camp in the remote north Pakistan district of Gilgit Baltistan.
Police said the climbers from Russia, China and Ukraine were killed this morning at the Diamir base camp, from where they were planning their ascent of the 8126m Nanga Parbat - the world's ninth highest peak known as "killer mountain" for the many who have perished trying to climb it since early last century.
A Pakistani, believed to be their guide, was also killed in the attack. "Unknown people entered a hotel where foreign tourists were staying last night and opened fire," senior police officer Ali Sher said. The gunmen fled after the attack, which took place at about 1am, he said.
Pakistan's umbrella Taliban movement has claimed responsibility for the killings, saying it had created a new wing to attack foreigners to avenge US drone strikes.
Spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan called AFP to say the killings were intended to avenge the death of the second-in-command of the umbrella Tehreek-e-Taliban in a US drone strike late last month. "We did it and we claim responsibility for this attack,'' Ehsan said in the call from an undisclosed location. "One of our factions, Junood ul-Hifsa, did it. It is to avenge the killing of Maulvi Wali ur-Rehman. "We want to convey to the world that this is our reply to US drone attacks.''
Rehman died on May 29 in a US drone attack on a house in North Waziristan, the most notorious Taliban and al-Qa'ida stronghold in Pakistan on the Afghan border. TTP vowed to avenge his death a day later, accusing Pakistan's government of being responsible for the attack.
Though early reports suggested the attack occurred at the idyllic Alpine tourist district of Fairy Meadows, near Nanga Parbat's northeast Rakhiot face, the group were actually staying at a base camp closest to the western Diamir face.
By early afternoon a Pakistani militant group known as Jundullah had claimed responsibility for the killings. "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 local reporters.
The same group has claimed responsibility for a series of attacks in Gilgit-Baltistan on members of Pakistan's Shiite Muslim minority, including a highway ambush in February 2012 in which 18 bus passengers were shot dead.
But today's attack was the first on foreign tourists. A stunned Ghulam Mohammad, operator of the Blue Sky Treks and Tours which organised the expedition, told The Australian there were four expeditions staying at the camp when gunmen attacked. The company has been operating trekking and summiting expeditions across Pakistan's Himalayan peaks since 1998.
Though Pakistan is a dangerous place for foreign tourists, it remains a mecca for serious mountain climbers with the greatest concentration of the world's highest peaks - eight over 8000m, including K2, and some 170 over 7000m. "We are very sad. I don't know how people can treat lives this way," Mr Mohammad said by phone. "This is the first time in our history this has happened."
The group is believed to have spent several days driving, then hiking, from Chilas, a town on the Silk Road famous for ancient cave art, to the Diamir district. A Pakistan government official said the area was so remote that the bodies would have to be flown out by helicopter. Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif strongly condemned the killings, saying such acts of cruelty and inhumanity would not be tolerated and that every effort would be made to make Pakistan a safe place for tourists. "The people and government of Pakistan stand by you in this hour of huge distress," he said in a message to the victims' families.
Details of the Nanga Parbat expedition were registered on the Alpine Club of Pakistan's website, which listed the group as comprising nine Ukrainians, a Georgian, a Russian and an Ecuadorian climber. But police said those killed in the attack included five Ukrainians, three Chinese and one Russian climber - suggesting climbers from other expeditions were also targeted.