Pak military chopper crashes; Taliban claims Sharif was target

| Saturday, May 9, 2015 - 09:08
First Published |

Pak military chopper crashes; Taliban claims Sharif was target

Islamabad: The outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) on Friday claimed responsibility for "shooting down" a Pakistan Army helicopter in Naltar valley in Gilgit-Baltistan territory, saying Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was the target of the attack, a media report said.

A TTP spokesperson, Mohammed Khurrassani, said in an Urdu statement that members of his group used a surface-to-air, shoulder-fired missile to bring down the chopper which crash-landed on a school building, CNN reported.

A Pakistan Army helicopter on Friday crashed at the place mentioned killing seven people, including the ambassadors of Norway and the Philippines.

Khurrassani said militants had "a special plan to target" Sharif, who was due to visit Naltar valley.

"The special task force of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan had prepared a special plan during the visit of the prime minister but he escaped as he was in another helicopter," the TTP spokesperson said.

"We will soon unveil to the entire world the shoulder-launch (anti-aircraft) missile SAM-7," Khurrassani was quoted as saying in the statement.

However, Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said that the helicopter crashed because of a technical fault.

In an update on Twitter, Director General of ISPR Major General Asim Bajwa said that according to initial information, two helicopters belonging to the Pakistan Army landed safely "while the third developed technical fault while landing", which caused the accident.

He, however, ruled out the possibility of any terrorist or subversive activity, according to Dawn online.

Bajwa said the dead from Friday's chopper crash included four foreigners -- Ambassadors Domingo D. Lucinerio Jr. of the Philippines and Leif Larsen of Norway and the wives of the Malaysian and Indonesian ambassadors -- and three Pakistanis -- two pilots and one crew member.

Polish Ambassador Andrzej Ananiczolish and Dutch Ambassador Marcel de Vink were also injured in the crash.

Pakistan Defence Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif also said that initial reports suggested the crash-landing was caused by a "technical fault", Xinhua reported.
The MI-17 helicopter was one of the three carrying a delegation of foreign diplomats and their wives and aides to Gilgit-Baltistan, where they were scheduled to meet Prime Minister Sharif. The trip was planned to help boost tourism in the region.

At the time of the incident Sharif was on a separate plane en route to Gilgit, where he was due to launch two projects -- one being a chair-lift project at a ski resort in Naltar valley, according to Dawn.

Pakistan's foreign ministry said that representatives from more than 30 countries had joined Pakistani dignitaries on the tour. The trip began with a flight to Gilgit on a C-130 aircraft, followed by helicopter trip to Naltar.

The TTP claim could not be verified.

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