Islamabad, May 8:
The ambassadors of the Philippines and Norway were among seven people killed on Friday in a chopper crash in Pakistan’s Naltar valley near Gilgit.
Even as the outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed the crash was caused by an attack it carried out, the army said the chopper “developed technical fault” while landing, media reports said.
In an update on Twitter, Director General of Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Major General Asim Bajwa said the dead 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.
He 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 ruled out the possibility of any terrorist or subversive activity, according to Dawn online.
The Pakistan Army helicopter crash-landed on a school, the report said, adding that Dutch Ambassador Marcel de Vink and Polish Ambassador Andrzej Ananicz were injured in the incident.
Earlier, in a series of tweets, Bajwa said that six Pakistanis and 11 foreigners were on board the MI-17 helicopter.
Three helicopters were carrying a delegation of foreign diplomats and their wives and aides to Gilgit-Baltistan, where they were scheduled to meet Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
“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 caught fire after the chopper crashed on it.
Expressing grief over the death of the envoys, Sharif has announced a one-day mourning, Associated Press of Pakistan reported. He was scheduled to visit Gilgit on Friday for the inauguration of two projects.
Shortly after the incident, the injured were taken to a military hospital in Gilgit, officials said.
A board of inquiry has been constituted to investigate the cause of the crash. (IANS)