The Norwegian and Philippine ambassadors and the wives of the Malaysian and Indonesian envoys were among seven people killed in a helicopter crash in northeastern Pakistan.
A “technical fault” with the MI-17 helicopter caused the crash and an intense fire then led to the deaths, the office of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said in a text message Friday, even as the Pakistani Taliban claimed they had shot down the aircraft. Both pilots of the helicopter and a crew member also died, and the Polish and Dutch ambassadors were injured, Army Spokesman Asim Bajwa said on Twitter.
The crash occurred in the northern Gilgit-Baltistan region where gunmen shot and killed at least nine mountaineers in 2013, including Chinese and Ukrainian nationals. Sharif was heading to the vicinity of the crash in the mountainous Naltar Valley near the Chinese border, but turned back on news of the incident.
Muhammad Khurasani, a Pakistani Taliban spokesman, said in an e-mailed statement that his organization had brought down the helicopter while trying to attack Sharif’s aircraft, without saying how.
Three of the four helicopters landed while the last one crashed due to a fault with its rotor when it was about to descend, said Tahir Hussain, chief secretary of Gilgit-Baltistan, said by phone. The chopper crashed when it was about 80 feet (25 meters) from the ground, he said.
About 60 people, including 30 diplomats were on a pleasure trip to northern Pakistan, Hussain said. They were on their way to the inauguration of a chairlift at a ski resort, Sharif’s office said.
Sajjad-ul-Haq, a spokesman for the Gilgit-Baltistan chief minister, also refuted the Taliban claim, saying the helicopter crashed in an accident as it was about to land.
The governments of the Philippines and Norway confirmed the deaths of their ambassadors.
Sharif has been trying to resolve Pakistan’s power shortages and boost investment to revive growth. Ratings company Standard and Poor’s on Tuesday, May 5, raised Pakistan’s sovereign credit-rating outlook to positive on an improvement in the South Asian nation’s economic prospects.