Gunmen Kill 9 Tourists in Giligit

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Extremist militants have killed 10 people, including nine foreign tourists after storming a hotel in northern Pakistan.

Officials say five are from Ukraine, one from Russia and three from China. A Pakistani guide also died in the attack.

It happened at the base camp of Nanga Parbat, the world’s ninth highest mountain, in Gilgit-Baltistan, part of Kashmir now held by Pakistan.

It is the first such attack on tourists in the region. A Sunni militant group, Jundullah, said it was responsible.

Police had at first said 10 foreign tourists had died. The motive for the killings is not yet clear.

One person, said to be Chinese, has survived the attack.

Part of the Himalayan Range, Nanga Parbat, standing at 8,126m (26,660ft), is popular with trekkers and mountaineers, especially during June and July.

The assault is seen as a significant blow for Pakistan’s already struggling tourist industry.

Gilgit-Baltistan, which borders China, had so far been considered one of the more secure areas under Pakistani control.

‘Very remote’

The attackers, reportedly dressed in police uniforms, stormed the hotel at the base camp in the foothills of Nanga Parbat shortly after midnight.

“Unknown people entered a hotel where foreign tourists were staying last night and opened fire,” Ali Sher, a senior police officer, told Reuters.

The gunmen allegedly took the foreigners’ money and passports before shooting them.

A senior official said the area, in Diamer district, had been sealed off and police were hunting for the killers.

“Since the area is very remote with no roads or transport, their bodies will have to be retrieved by helicopter,” he said.

President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif have condemned the attack.

Mr Sharif, who was re-elected earlier this month, said “such acts of cruelty and inhumanity” would not be tolerated.

Meanwhile Gilgit governor Syed Mehdi Shah is set to hold a meeting with regional law enforcement agencies on Sunday to discuss the security situation in the area, Radio Pakistan reports.

“A lot of tourists come to this area in the summer, and our local people work to earn money from these people,” he said.

“This will not only affect our area, but will adversely affect all of Pakistan.”

Gilgit-Baltistan forms part of the larger disputed Kashmir region, which has been the subject of conflict between India and Pakistan since both countries declared independence in 1947.

In recent years, the region has suffered a spate of attacks by militants targeting Pakistan’s Shia Muslim minority.

The area is famous for its natural beauty and the main city of Gilgit is seen as a gateway to the Karakoram and Himalayan mountain ranges.

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