Anjum Naveed, AP
ISLAMABAD — Islamic militants disguised as policemen killed 10 foreign climbers and a Pakistani guide in a brazen overnight raid against their campsite at the base of one of the world's tallest mountains in northern Pakistan, officials said.
The Pakistani Taliban claimed it carried out the attack at Nanga Parbat to avenge the death of their deputy leader in a U.S. drone strike last month.
The area has largely been peaceful, hundreds of kilometers (miles) from the Taliban's major sanctuaries along the Afghan border. But the militant group, which has been waging a bloody insurgency against the government for years, has shown it has the ability to strike almost anywhere in the country.
The Taliban began their attack by abducting two local guides to take them to the remote base camp in Gilgit-Baltisan, said Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan. One guide was killed, and the other has been detained for questioning. The attackers disguised themselves by wearing uniforms used by the Gilgit Scouts, a paramilitary force that patrols the area, Khan said.
Around 15 gunmen attacked the camp at around 11 p.m. Saturday, said the Alpine Club of Pakistan, which spoke with the surviving guide, Sawal Faqir. They began by beating the mountaineers and taking away any mobile and satellite phones they could find, as well as everyone's money, said the club in a statement.
Some climbers and guides were able to run away, but those that weren't were shot dead, said the club. Faqir was able to hide a satellite phone and eventually used it to notify authorities of the attack.
Attaur Rehman, the home secretary in Gilgit-Baltistan, said 10 foreigners and one Pakistani were killed in the attack. The dead foreigners included three Ukrainians, two Slovakians, two Chinese, one Lithuanian, one Nepalese and one Chinese-American, according to Rehman and tour operators who were working with the climbers. Matt Boland, the acting spokesman at the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, confirmed that an American citizen was among the dead, but could not say whether it was a dual Chinese national.
The shooting — one of the worst attacks on foreigners in Pakistan in recent years — occurred in a stunning part of the country that has seen little violence against tourists, although it has experienced attacks by radical Sunni Muslims on minority Shiites in recent years.
Pakistani Taliban spokesman Ahsanullah Ahsan claimed responsibility for the attack, saying their Jundul Hafsa faction carried out the shooting as retaliation for the death of the Taliban's deputy leader, Waliur Rehman, in a U.S. drone attack on May 29.
"By killing foreigners, we wanted to give a message to the world to play their role in bringing an end to the drone attacks," Ahsan told The Associated Press by telephone from an undisclosed location.
The U.S. insists the CIA strikes primarily kill al-Qaida and other militants who threaten the West as well as efforts to stabilize neighboring Afghanistan. In a recent speech, President Barack Obama outlined tighter restrictions on the highly secretive program.
Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who wants to pursue peace talks with militants threatening his country, has insisted the U.S. stop the drone strikes, saying they violate Pakistan's sovereignty and are counterproductive because they often kill innocent civilians and stoke anti-U.S. sentiment in this nation of 180 million people.
Sharif responded to the attack on the camp by vowing "such acts of cruelty and inhumanity would not be tolerated and every effort would be made to make Pakistan a safe place for tourists."
Officials expressed fear the attack would deal a serious blow to Pakistan's tourism industry, already struggling because of the high level of violence in the country.
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