Norway and Philippines Ambassadors among 7 killed in Helicopter crash in Gilgit
ISLAMABAD (Pakistan) – A Pakistan military helicopter carrying diplomats to the launch of projects in northern Pakistan crashed on Friday killing seven people, including the ambassadors of Norway and the Philippines and the wives of the ambassadors of Malaysia and Indonesia, Pakistan army official said.
Norwegian envoy Leif H Larsen, Philippines ambassador Domingo D Lucenario Jr, wives of Malaysian and Indonesian ambassadors, two pilots and a crew member were killed in the incident while Polish ambassador Andrzej Ananiczolish and Dutch ambassador Marcel de Vink sustained injuries.
Military spokesman Asim Bajwa said in a Twitter post that four foreigners, two pilots and one crew member were killed in the crash. He said the ambassadors of Poland and the Netherlands were among the injured.
Three Pakistani killed in the fatal accident were identified as two pilots, Major Altamash and Major Faisal, and one crew member.
Pakistani media said 11 foreigners and six Pakistanis were on board the MI-17, which crashed into a school Gilgit and caught fire.
Update Naltar:7 Fatalities.Foreigners-4(Ambs Norway,Philipine,wife of Amb Indonesia,Malaysia).Pakistani-3; two pilots,one crew member-6
— AsimBajwaISPR (@AsimBajwaISPR) May 8, 2015
According to a list of passengers obtained by media, the ambassadors of Indonesia, Lebanon, Malaysia, the Netherlands, Romania, Norway, South Africa, the Philippines and Poland were scheduled to fly on the helicopter.
“It was a diplomatic trip with members of 37 countries in total,” said a passenger in one of the helicopters, who requested anonymity, adding that the school had caught fire after the crash.
The trip was mainly organised for tourism purposes, however, the ambassadors were expected to hold high-level meetings, including one with the Gilgit-Baltistan chief minister.
The injured were being air lifted to Combined Military Hospital in Gilgit, the region’s administrative capital, some 50 kilometers (30 miles) to the southwest, added a senior local police official.
Ill-fated Helicopter was enroute to Gilgit where Pakistani PM was to inaugurate new projects
The helicopter was on route to the city of Gilgit where Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was to attend a public ceremony to inaugurate the newly installed chair-lift at a ski resort.
The diplomats were travelling to the mountainous northern region of Gilgit with a delegation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif (who was on a separate aircraft) when the accident happened.
The prime minister was enroute to Gilgit when the “tragic news” was conveyed to him after which he cancelled his visit and returned to Islamabad.
Fifty-seven people, including 32 men, 20 women and five children were on their way to Naltar, Gilgit on a Foreign Office-organised trip when one of the three helicopters crashed on the way.
The helicopter is said to have crashed into Army Public School in the area. The cause of the crash is yet to be known.
PM Nawaz expresses deep grief and announces one-day mourning
Prime Minister Mr Sharif and President Mamnoon Hussain have expressed deep grief and sorrow over the incident according to a statement. The President stated that the government and people of Pakistan are deeply saddened over the tragic death of foreigners in the unfortunate incident and equally share the grief of the affected families.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has declared one-day mourning over the Naltar helicopter crash which claimed lives of six people including Norwedian and Philippine ambassadors and injured 13 others.
Taliban reportedly claims responsibility for fatal Pakistan helicopter crash, say PM was target
The Taliban has reportedly claimed responsibility for downing a military helicopter and said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was their target.
“The helicopter was shot down by an anti-aircraft missile, killing pilots and many foreign ambassadors,” an Urdu-language statement emailed by their main spokesman Muhammad Khorasani said.
It was not immediately possible to verify the claim.
However, earlier statements of Pakistan government and Army officials claimed the helicopter developed a technical fault while landing and did not immediately respond to queries about the Taliban claim.
Known for its spectacular mountain ranges and unique culture, Gilgit-Baltistan is a strategically important autonomous region that borders China, Afghanistan and Indian-held Kashmir.