China condemned an attack in Pakistan’s mountainous north in which gunmen shot and killed at least nine climbers and their guide as they prepared to ascend the country’s second-highest peak.
China’s embassy in Pakistan asked authorities to capture the gunmen and protect Chinese people in the country, the official Xinhua News Agency said in a statement yesterday. Two Chinese citizens and one Chinese-American were among the dead from the June 22 attack, Xinhua reported, citing Pakistan Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan.
The killings were the most audacious attack on foreigners in Pakistan since the Marriott Hotel bombing in Islamabad in 2008, and underscored the challenges faced by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who took over early this month after winning a general election in May. The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility, the Geo television network reported yesterday, citing the group’s spokesman, Ehsanullah Ehsan.
“This is an attack not only on foreigners but on Pakistan, which is in a state of war,” Khan said in parliament, blaming security lapses at a time when militants are intensifying their campaign against civilian and military targets.
Six Ukrainians and three Chinese were among those killed in the area visited frequently by foreign climbers on Nanga Parbat, the second-highest peak in Pakistan and located in the Himalayan mountain range bordering China. The climbers were staying at a base camp in the Diamer district in Gilgit-Baltistan.
The gunmen, who were wearing local scout uniforms, targeted the base camp after kidnapping two guides to reach the high-altitude area where normal security procedures for foreign tourists are not available, Khan said. One Chinese climber and a local guide were rescued, he said.
Militants from the Pakistan Taliban and other sectarian groups routinely target the country’s security forces and opposing groups in the region. At least 17 people were killed in sectarian violence in Gilgit-Baltistan in April last year.
The Taliban’s aim is to expel Western interests from the country, force the removal of government troops from tribal areas, and establish Islamic law.
A U.S. drone attack on May 29 killed the deputy chief of the Pakistani Taliban, Waliur Rehman, according to a U.S. official who asked not to be named because it was a classified operation. Rehman was involved in the 2009 suicide attack on a Central Intelligence Agency outpost in Afghanistan that killed seven Americans, the State Department said in 2010.
Sharif condemned the killing of climbers, calling it an act of “cruelty and inhumanity,” according to a statement issued by his office.
Pakistan is making arrangements to return the bodies of the climbers to their countries and is beefing up security at all key installations, Khan said.