Pak copter crash kills Norwegian, Philippine ambassadors, Taliban claims responsibility
ISLAMABAD: A Pakistan military helicopter carrying diplomats to inspect a tourism project crashed on Friday killing seven people, including the ambassadors of Norway and the Philippines and the wives of the Malaysian and Indonesian ambassadors.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was travelling to the mountainous northern region of Gilgit on a separate aircraft when the accident happened. He returned to Islamabad, his office said.
Norwegian Ambassador Leif Larsen, Philippine Ambassador Domingo Lucenario and the wives of the ambassadors of Malaysia and Indonesia were killed, along with two pilots and a crew member, military spokesman Asim Bajwa said in Twitter posts.
He said initial information indicated the cause was a technical fault. The foreign secretary also said technical problems caused the crash.
“Apparently its engine failed,” Foreign Secretary Azaz Chaudhry said. “It was not terrorism.”
Meanwhile, the Pakistani Taliban claimed they shot down the aircraft but witnesses on the ground, and in other helicopters on the trip, reported nothing to indicate any firing.
Malaysian state media identified the wife of the ambassador as Habibah Mahmud, while Indonesia said its ambassador Burhan Muhammad was injured and his wife, Heri Listyawati Burhan Muhammad, was killed.
Bajwa said the ambassadors of Poland and the Netherlands were among the injured. The ambassadors of South Africa, Lebanon and Romania were also on board, according to a flight list obtained by Reuters. The Romanian Foreign Ministry said its ambassador was alive and uninjured.
An official in Gilgit said nine people had been killed. “The bodies are so badly torched that they can't be identified," said Sibtain Ahmed, the home secretary of Gilgit-Baltistan.
The Foreign Office said 17 people were on board the Mi-17 when it crashed into a school in Gilgit and caught fire. Media said there were 11 foreigners and six Pakistanis.