Pakistani Taliban claim downing helicopter, say PM was target

AFP , Friday 8 May 2015

The Pakistani Taliban Friday claimed responsibility for downing a military helicopter, killing six people including the Norwegian and Philippine envoys, and said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was their target.

"The helicopter was shot down by an anti-aircraft missile, killing pilots and many foreign ambassadors," an Urdu-language statement emailed by their main spokesman Muhammad Khorasani said.

"A special group of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan had prepared a special plan to target Nawaz Sharif during his visit but he survived because he was travelling in another helicopter," Khorasani added.

It was not immediately possible to verify the claim, but the Gilgit-Baltistan region in Pakistan's north where the chopper came down is not known as a stronghold of the militant organisation.

Officials have not yet commented on the Taliban claim. The ministry of defence issued a statement saying it was investigating what caused the crash.

An earlier statement by Sharif's office had said he was on a plane -- not helicopter -- en route to the Gilgit area at the time of the attack, but turned back to Islamabad after news of the crash broke.

A top regional administration official told AFP that Sharif was due to inaugurate a chair-lift project at a ski resort in the Naltar Valley.

The crashed helicopter was one of three carrying a delegation of ambassadors to inspect projects on a three-day trip to Gilgit-Baltistan, where the foreign envoys were set to meet with Sharif.

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