Nanga Parbat assault: Tragedy in Himalayas

Published: June 24, 2013

Chaudhry Nisar, along with the Chinese and Ukrainian ambassadors, receive bodies of the victims. PHOTO: INP

It was the first time foreign tourists had been attacked in the G-B, where the convergence of the Hindukush, Karakoram and Himalayan ranges has created a stunning landscape explored by only a trickle of the most intrepid mountaineers. Chaudhry Nisar, along with the Chinese and Ukrainian ambassadors, receive bodies of the victims. PHOTO: INP

GILGIT: Gunmen overran a mountaineering base camp and shot dead foreign trekkers who were resting during a climb up one of the world’s tallest peaks, police and administration officials said on Sunday.

The attackers — who were dressed as paramilitary Gilgit Scouts — killed 10 foreign climbers, including Chinese and Ukrainian nationals, and their Pakistani cook at the foot of Nanga Parbat, the 9th tallest peak in the world, in the early hours of Sunday.

Interestingly, two outlawed militant groups claimed responsibility for the base camp shootings near Kutgali in the Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) region.

“Eleven people were killed in the attack that took place in Buner Nullah near the base camp,” Deputy Inspector General of Police Ali Sher told The Express Tribune, without disclosing the nationalities of the victims. However, other officials identified the victims as two Chinese, one Chinese-American, three Ukrainians, two Slovakians, one Lithuanian, one Nepalese and their Pakistani cook.

Yang Chunfeng (Chinese), Rao Jianfeng (Chinese), Honglu Chen (American of Chinese origin), Sona Sherpa

(Nepalese), Ernestas Marksaitis (Lithuanian),

Matt Boland, acting spokesperson for the US Embassy in Islamabad, confirmed to AFP that an American citizen had been killed in the attack and extended condolences to the families of the “innocent tourists”.

The gunmen shot dead a Pakistani cook with the tourists and held other workers at gunpoint, a senior official of the G-B government told Reuters. A Chinese climber managed to escape.

The federal interior minister said the security forces using military helicopters had retrieved the Chinese national who was later shifted to a safe place. The other guide was also arrested and is currently under investigation.

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

The interior minister said the attackers were dressed as Gilgit Scouts and reached the area by abducting two guides. “One guide was killed in the shootout. One is alive. He is now detained and being questioned,” Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan told journalists in Islamabad.

“The area where the incident occurred is unmanned and is at two-day trek from Chilas, the headquarters of Diamer Valley where the peak is located,” said local police official Alif Khan. “We have reports that three of the dead climbers were Chinese,” he added.

There were conflicting claims of responsibility for the attack. Sectarian extremist group Jundullah, with a track record of attacks in the region, was the first to say it was behind the raid.

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

Later, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) said it had shot the trekkers in retaliation for a US drone strike in May that killed the group’s second in command.

“One of our factions, Junood-ul-Hifsa, did it. It is to avenge the killing of our commander Waliur Rehman,” said spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan. He added that Junood-ul-Hifsa was a new wing set up by the TTP “to attack foreigners and convey a message to the world against drone strikes”.

Contingents of paramilitary G-B Scouts, Rangers and police have mounted a manhunt for the attackers in the areas around Nanga Parbat.

“Security at the Nullahs [around Nanga Parbat] is being increased to avoid a repeat of such incidents in future,” said a statement issued from  the office of G-B Chief Minister Mehdi Shah. Shah denounced the attack as an “act to disrupting Pakistan’s ties with the friendly countries”.

Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar called it “an attack on Pakistan”.

“The objective behind this attack appeared to tarnish our image and to discourage tourism in Pakistan,” he told journalists after receiving the bodies of foreign trekkers at the Air Marshal Nur Khan airbase in Rawalpindi.

The ambassadors of China and Ukraine and senior officials of Nepalese and Russian embassies were present at the airbase to receive the bodies.

Condemning “these inhuman and cruel acts”, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif ordered a thorough investigation and called for the culprits to be brought to justice.

It was the first time foreign tourists had been attacked in the G-B, where the convergence of the Hindukush, Karakoram and Himalayan ranges has created a stunning landscape explored by only a trickle of the most intrepid mountaineers.

The 8,126-metre Nanga Parbat is the second highest peak in Pakistan after K-2 and is the 9th highest mountain in the world. In summer, it attracts foreign mountaineers and trekkers in droves.

The deaths call into question the future of foreign mountaineering and trekking expeditions, which provide the last vestige of international tourism in a country reeling from a bloody Taliban insurgency. (WITH ADDITIONAL INPUT FROM NEWS WIRES)

Published in The Express Tribune, June 24th, 2013.

Reader Comments (17)

  • Haris Chaudhry
    Jun 24, 2013 - 4:27AM

    Every major newspaper around the globe has covered this as a majort story and lumped it together with the complete loss of the ‘will and capacity’ by our security agencies to go after TTP and its half a dozen allied murderous entities.

    Pakistan is one nation and the only nation globally that is viewed by suspicion by literally every other country int he world. We are considered as one of the most ‘loathed’ countries in the world and a global headache to the civilised world.

    We export terrorism, breed and nurture fascist fanatical entities, we create an arsenal of over 100 atom bombs when we dont even have enough to pay our outstanding loans and keep our planes flying with PIA, we keep running to USA and IMF for bailout yet never publicly acknowledge their support and always happy to denounce them as our enemies –

    I mean, who would want us as neighbours, friends or allies…

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  • khan
    Jun 24, 2013 - 5:07AM

    This is very well planed war being fought by the enemies of Pakistan to use non state actors to attack Pakistan from inside the country and to destabilize and to bank corrupt the country economically and our previous government was too busy in looting the country them self that they totally ignored this war and I blame the army also that they have let the things get to this point. Our leaders need to come forward and tell the nation
    the truth and treat this terrorism as acts of war and warn India and Afghanistan of the consequences.

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  • Jun 24, 2013 - 6:13AM

    Pakistan has failed as a nation. End of pakistan is near..

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  • Babloo
    Jun 24, 2013 - 6:33AM

    @Harris,
    Painful but true words. Pakistan can improve and survive only after it acknowledges the truth that you have spelt out.

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  • Mirza
    Jun 24, 2013 - 8:34AM

    Thank you TTP for taking credit of yet another brutal and cowardly attack. The sad truth is while TTP is admitting their guilt their supporters are calling it a foreign conspiracy and taking the credit away from TTP. The whole world knows there is no other organization that specifically targets girl students, schools, hospitals, medical workers, shrines, beheading, bombings and even funerals. Yet the rightwing prodigies of TTP never stop making excuses.

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  • Viv
    Jun 24, 2013 - 8:41AM

    Khan- You seem to be one of them. This misinformation about India and Afghanistan is what is fed to these naive attackers and that is the reason for the attacks.

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  • Terry
    Jun 24, 2013 - 9:08AM

    @Haris Chaudhry:
    This was a very well planned act, lots of intelligence gathering and coordination. Do you think TTP has that kind of network. Our enemies are well-known, and they provide TTP with all the vital intelligence. It is like burying your head in the sand if you don’t acknowledge that. There is always a motive behind every incident. There act of terrorism was meant to spoil Pak-china relationship, specially when Nawaz Sharif was going to china to ink the new trade agreement. You have to convince yourself that, these are foreign sponsored anti state elements.

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  • Historian 1
    Jun 24, 2013 - 9:55AM

    Pakistan could have certainly avoided this mess by handing over OBL and associates to US back in 2001. Greed of dollars has a huge price to pay now.Recommend

  • Haris
    Jun 24, 2013 - 10:25AM

    Yeah condemn it… Thats all that we can do.

    We condemn it.

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  • Malik Adeel Imtiaz
    Jun 24, 2013 - 1:40PM

    Dear China,

    We are very much ashamed. What happened in Pakistan on Saturday. The killers should be severely punished.

    I have no words to say. We Pakistani condemned it.

    Thanks

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  • Arun
    Jun 24, 2013 - 3:32PM

    @Terry:
    Sorry dear, but your explanation falls flat on its face when we see it in context with the ‘only negotiations no hammer’ one track demand from IK/PTI and other political houses. Are they all pro-India?

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  • ABC
    Jun 24, 2013 - 3:41PM

    @Terry
    Then why half of Pakistan calls these people their brothers. Why does everyone want to negotiate with them? Why do people not want drones on thm.

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  • Alann
    Jun 24, 2013 - 5:25PM

    People like Khan and Terry are the reason Pakistan is still behind India and others. Even now, a big majority of Pakistanis will just blame it all on their government and “extrenal forces” of India, Israel, US. Pakistanis, most of them, like to do nothing themselves and blame it all on others. Why do anything for the betterment of our country when we can simply blame it on India or US?
    Banking/Finance, Agriculture, IT, Science, Space Research – India is a major leader in the world today in ALL these fields. Where is Pakistan? In today’s world, what is Pakistan famous for? Actually, is there even a Nation called Pakistan? “Pakistan” is more like a beautiful nickname given to the Islamic Republic of Anti-India.
    A nation which refuses to work on its own progress; a nation which likes blaming others for all of its failures; a nation which is built upon negation; a nation which breeds terrorists in the name of religion; a nation where the top level government officials and military leaders occupy half of the land of the whole country – what can one expect from such nation? It is easy to blame India, israel or US.
    The reality of Pakistan is that, in today’s world, it is NOWHERE near to India in any field.
    The only “field” where it is far ahead of India is in Terrorism.
    Blame it all you can on India and others, the fact remains that terrorism remains rampart in the whole country and the weak government is useless and the military is non-willing.
    I have never seen a bigger coward military than that of Pakistan.
    What is even the use of all the nuclear weapons? They are themselves going to destroy Pakistan from within.

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  • baadnewzz
    Jun 24, 2013 - 5:27PM

    A bunch of COWARDS! Hope all of these BARBARIANS will be damned forever.
    It seems that none of them understand that by acts like this they increase the negative image of ALL muslims.

    (Two of the dead climbers come from my country – Slovakia).

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  • Quantum
    Jun 24, 2013 - 7:30PM

    @Alann:

    Very well said.

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  • Nz
    Jun 26, 2013 - 9:20PM

    I’m from Lithuania and its hard to believe that this hapend , Ernestas duoghter call to ernestas when she know that people dead,but her dad didn’t answered

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  • Terry
    Jun 27, 2013 - 3:41AM

    @Alann:
    What is India ahead of Pakistan. Poverty, unemployment, corruption, racial discrimination. 82% of population living below poverty line, earning less than $1.75 a day.

    You think if India is not involved in staging terrorist acts in Pakistan, you are deceiving yourself. Who is funding the Talibs, what are your 17 consulates accross Pakistan border doing. This incident cannot happen without some very precise intelligence provided by Pakistan’s adversaries.

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