The Pakistani Taliban has claimed responsibility for the downing of a helicopter in Pakistan’s Gilgit-Baltistan region which killed seven people, including ambassadors.
According to a Pakistani Taliban spokesman, the main target of the attack was Pakistan’s president Nawaz Sharif, an emailed statement in the Urdu language said.
“The helicopter was shot down by an anti-aircraft missile, killing pilots and many foreign ambassadors,” said the statement.
Verifying the claim was not possible, but the region of Gilgit-Baltistan - a mountainous region and close to China, Afghanistan and Kashmir - is known as a hotbed for various militant organisations.
The helicopter was part of a convoy carrying a foreign delegation to the city of Gilgit for an opening ceremony in Gilgit-Baltistan, where they were also planning to hold a field trip with the participation of Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
Two Pakistani pilots, the wives of the ambassadors of Indonesia and Malaysia, Norwegian ambassador Leif H Larsen, and Philippines ambassador Domingo D Lucenario were among the dead in the MI-17 helicopter crash.
The ambassadors of Indonesia, Malaysia, the Netherland, Romania, Norway, South Africa, the Philippines and Poland were among the confirmed passengers.
Lebanese ambassador to Pakistan Mona al-Tannir was also supposed to be among the passengers, but her situation is still unknown.
Military spokesman Major-General Asim Bajwa said the helicopter was carrying 17 passengers, 13 of whom were injured, including the Polish and Dutch ambassadors.
The injured passengers were airlifted to a military hospital in Gilgit in ambulances.
Prime Minister Sharif was on his way to the destination in Gilgit-B when he received the news of crash, but he decided to return to his office where he expressed “deep grief and sorrow” over the incident.