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Tourist massacre echoes similar event 16 years ago

June 25, 2013 DESTINATION, Headline News No Comments Email Email

egtmedia59Islamist militants disguised as policemen have killed 10 foreign tourists and a Pakistani guide in a night attack at the base of one of the world’s highest mountains in northern Pakistan.

The victims were reportedly members of a climbing party in a very remote region and were chosen because they were foreign tourists. The dead were said to include five Ukrainians, two Chinese, one Nepalese, an American citizen of Chinese origin and their Pakistani guide.

The attack happened at the base camp of Nanga Parbat, the worlds ninth highest mountain, in Gilgit-Baltistan. The area is remote and extremely beautiful, lush and green and sometimes called Fairy Meadows.

The BBC reported that the Pakistani Taliban had claimed responsibility and said the attack was in retaliation for the killing of its second-in-command in a suspected US drone strike in May. Gilgit-Baltistan

The group said it would continue to target foreigners, the BBC reported.

Although the attack happened in a country regarded as potentially dangerous for tourists, the Himalayan region has been pretty safe, historically.

Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) advises Australians: “We strongly advise you to reconsider your need to travel to Pakistan at this time due to the very high threat of terrorist attack, kidnapping, sectarian violence and the unpredictable security situation.”

DFAT lists several of Pakistan’s border areas as “Do not travel” regions. It advises that attacks could happen anywhere in the country.

“There is a very high threat of terrorist attack against places in Pakistan that are frequented by Australians and other Westerners.”

When news of the attack broke, one tourism news agency rushed out a bulletin under the sensational headline: “Worst incident of terrorism against tourists in history”.

As well as being alarmist, that is incorrect.

In 1997, Islamist gunmen from the fanatical al-Gamaa al-Islamiya group in Egypt massacred 62 people, including 58 foreign visitors, at a temple in Luxor. The attack happened at the Temple of Hatshepsut in Luxor’s Valley of the Queens and the attackers specifically targeted tourists.

More than half of those killed were Swiss and the rest were Japanese, British, German and Colombian.

The attackers, at that time linked to al Qaeda, aimed to throttle tourism revenue for the government of Egypt’s then-president Hosni Mubarak. The bad publicity certainly affected tourism to Egypt.

In one of history’s more bizarre ironies, an Egyptian politician who belongs to the political wing of the al-Gamaa al-Islamiya movement, which carried out the Luxor attack, was earlier this month sworn in by Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi as governor of the vital tourism region that includes Luxor.

His appointment sparked outrage, with tourism workers demonstrating, burning tyres and carrying placards saying “No to the terrorist governor!”

Last weekend, the politician, Adel Mohamed al-Khayat, stepped down from the position, saying he didn’t want any blood spilled over it. He has always denied any personal role in the Luxor attack or other militant action, saying he had been a student during his initial association with al-Gamaa al-Islamiya.

al-Gamaa al-Islamiya is an ally of Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood.

Written by : Peter Needham

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