Attacks on foreigners in Pakistan have been rare in recent years, but that changed on Sunday when gunmen disguised as paramilitary police killed ten foreign mountain climbers and their Pakistani guide. The tourists were attempting to scale Nanga Parbat, the world’s ninth-tallest mountain, and had set up camp about 4,000 feet above sea level. Local officials say that at around 1 a.m., about a dozen men stormed the camp and shot the campers as they slept in their tents. According to the New York Times, the dead included one American and citizens of Ukraine, China, Slovakia, Nepal, and Lithuania. One Chinese climber was rescued after being wounded in the attack.
The Pakistani Taliban has claimed responsibility for the murders, saying they’re retaliation for a suspected U.S. drone strike last month that killed Wali ur-Rehman, the group’s second in command. Pakistan’s Taliban has been threatening to avenge his death for weeks, and it seems the attack was planned well in advance, as the camp site takes two days to reach by foot. “They seem to have been well prepared,” said Amjad Ayub, president of the Pakistan Association of Tour Operators. “Only the fittest can survive in that environment.”
Officials in Pakistan speculated that the militants’ aim was also to disrupt Pakistan’s diplomatic relations and its tourism industry. Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, Pakistan’s interior minister, said Chinese envoy Xu Feihong had called to ask if Chinese tourists might be the target. “I said Pakistan was the target,” he said. “The terrorists want to give a message to the world that Pakistan is an insecure place and insecure country.”