by Kraig Becker
The mountaineering community is reeling today after learning about a vicious and deadly attack that took place this weekend in base camp on Nanga Parbat, a remote peak in Pakistan. The attack, which left 11 people dead, was particularly shocking because it was the first of its kind against foreign climbers traveling in a region that has traditionally been safe for visitors. Members of the Pakistani branch of the Taliban have claimed responsibility for the killings. The details of the attack are still coming together, but it seems that late Saturday evening a team of armed gunmen dressed in local police uniforms stormed base camp, which was home to several dozen climbers at the time. Most had only recently arrived and were preparing to scale the 8126-meter (26,660 ft) Nanga Parbat. The attackers reportedly rounded up a group of climbers, bound them and proceeded to execute them on the spot. Amongst the dead are three Ukrainians, two Chinese, two Slovakians, one Chinese-American, one Lithuanian and one Nepali. They also killed a Pakistani guide and a cook. A Chinese climber who was wounded in the assault was rescued although the extent of his injuries are not known at this time.
Nanga Parbat, which is the ninth tallest mountain in the world, is located in the Diamir region of Pakistan, a very remote and rugged, yet scenic part of the country. The militant group responsible for the attack had to plan the assault carefully and went well out of their way to conduct the raid. It is a two day hike from the nearest road just to reach base camp, which is located at about 4570 meters (15,000 ft). To get there, the gunmen kidnapped two guides and forced them to lead them to BC. One of those guides was killed in the shootout while the other has been taken into custody for questioning.
At the time of the raid there were approximately 50 climbers on the mountain, including eight Sherpas that were higher up the slopes fixing ropes. Now most of those climbers have abandoned base camp altogether while the authorities pour over the crime scene looking for clues to the identity of the gunmen. The Pakistani government says that it is taking this attack very seriously and has vowed to bring those involved to justice.
The Taliban group that has claimed responsibility for the attack says that it was in response to an American drone strike that killed Wali ur-Rehman on May 29. He was an important lieutenant to Taliban leaders that operate inside Pakistan’s borders.
So far there have been no reports of violence on any of the other big Pakistani mountains, such as K2, Broad Peak or the Gasherbrums. Security in those locations has been increased none the less.
[Photo Credit: Daniel Martin]