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Two Diplomats, Five Others, Killed In Pakistani Helicopter Crash

  • RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal

At least seven people, including two ambassadors, were killed when a Pakistani military helicopter crashed in the northern Gilgit-Baltistan region on May 8.

Pakistani military spokesman Major General Asim Bajwa said the casualties included three crew members as well as the ambassadors of the Philippines and Norway and the wives of the Malaysian and Indonesian ambassadors.

The ambassadors of Poland and The Netherlands were among some dozen others who were injured.

The diplomats were traveling to witness a ceremony to commission a new ski-lift that was to have been hosted by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who was flying in a separate aircraft.

Pakistan’s Federal Minister for Defense Khwaja Mohammad Asif said in a statement that the helicopter crashed due to a technical fault. He said the ministry had ruled out the possibility of any terrorist activity.

That appeared to contradict an earlier claim by a spokesman for the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militant group, Muhammad Khurasani, that his group had carried out an attack.

In an email sent to RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal, Khurasani said the group had brought down the MI-17 helicopter with a shoulder-launched antiaircraft missile. It said the attack was part of a plan to kill Sharif.

Officials have not yet commented on the Taliban claim. The Defense Ministry issued a statement saying it was investigating the incident.

Reports said the Gilgit-Baltistan region, where the chopper came down, is not known as a stronghold of the militant organization. The TTP often claims responsibility for incidents they had nothing to do with.

An earlier statement by Sharif's office said the prime minister was on a plane -- not a helicopter -- at the time of the attack. The office said Sharif's plane turned back to Islamabad after news of the crash broke.

The helicopter was one of three carrying a delegation of ambassadors to inspect projects on a three-day trip to a ski resort in the Naltar Valley.

Sharif has declared a day of mourning in relation to the incident.

With reporting by Reuters and AFP