Tragedy struck early this morning beneath 26,660-foot Nanga Parbat, as militant gunmen opened fire on members of a mountaineering expedition, killing 10 foreign climbers—five Ukrainians, two Chinese, a Chinese-American and a Nepalese—and their Pakistani guide. Only one climber in the group, 42-year-old Chinese mountaineer Zhang
The attack happened around 1am Sunday in Gilgit-Baltistan, a remote, mountainous province in far northern Parkistan. The militants were disguised as a local paramilitary force, and were apparently led to the tourists—who were preparing to climb Nanga Parbat, the world's ninth tallest mountain—by one or more guides they'd taken hostage.
During the attack, Jingchuan was able to untie his ropes and run away. Although he could "feel bullets flying past his head," he was able to jump off a cliff and hide from his pursuers.
The local Taliban affiliate claimed responsibility for the murders, saying that it was in response to recent American drone attacks in the region—including one that killed a Taliban deputy in late May. "By killing foreigners, we wanted to give a message to the world to play their role in bringing an end to the drone attacks," Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ahsan told The Associated Press.
It was one of the worst attacks on foreigners in Pakistan in recent years, and is likely to damage what remains of Pakistan's flagging tourism industry. After all, the victims were among a breed of tourist—mountaineers—who, until now, had remained unphased by regional instability. Drawn to the Pakistani Karakoram by skyscraping mountains like Nanga Parbat and K2, climbers have had more to fear in avalanches, lung-searing altitude and traditional alpine hazards than political unrest and terrorism.
This could potentially change all of that. "God willing we will find the perpetrators of this tragic incident," said Syed Mehdi Shah, the chief minister of Gilgit-Baltistan.
We'll update this story as we learn more.
Via China Daily.