9 May 2015

Ambassadors killed in Pakistan helicopter crash

7:05 am on 9 May 2015

An army helicopter has crashed in a mountainous part of northern Pakistan, killing seven people, including the Philippine and Norwegian ambassadors.

Flame and smoke rises from the site where a Pakistani military helicopter crashed in the northern area of Gilgit on 8 May 2015.

Flame and smoke rises from the site of the crash in the northern area of Gilgit. Photo: AFP

It crashed during an emergency landing in the Gilgit-Baltistan territory.

The wives of the Indonesian and Malaysian envoys, two pilots and a crew member also died. They were to attend the opening of a tourism project.

Two senior Pakistani ministers said the crash was down to a technical fault.

Earlier, the Pakistani Taliban said they were behind the attack.

But Defence Minister Khawaja Asif, and Foreign Minister Azez Chaudhury said there appeared to have been technical problems with the helicopter.

The area is not a stronghold of the Pakistani Taliban (TTP). The militant group earlier issued a statement saying they had shot down the helicopter with an anti-aircraft missile, intending to kill Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

Military spokesman Asim Bajwa said in a Twitter post that Norwegian envoy Leif Larsen and Domingo Lucenario of the Philippines had been killed.

He said five others were injured, including the Polish and Dutch ambassadors.

Eleven foreigners and six Pakistanis were on board the MI-17 helicopter when it came down in the Naltar valley, he added.

School building hit

The helicopter hit a building belonging to an army school in Gilgit-Baltistan. The building caught fire but no children were in class at the time, a senior official told AFP.

It was one of three helicopters ferrying a delegation of foreign diplomats for the inauguration of a ski chairlift at the resort of Naltar.

Construction was reportedly completed more than six months ago, but the inauguration was delayed due to Mr Sharif's other commitments.

It is the second chairlift to be built in a Pakistani ski resort. The first, which is at Pakistan's oldest ski resort of Malam Jabba, was destroyed by the Taliban.

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

It is also a strategically important autonomous region bordering China, Afghanistan and Indian-held Kashmir.

There have been a number of crashes involving the same model of military helicopter in Pakistan in recent years.

-BBC