ISLAMABAD: The Pakistani Taliban may be planning attacks on tourists in the country's mountainous north, where 10 foreign climbers were massacred last year, officials warned Monday.
Thousands of tourists visit Gilgit-Baltistan and Chitral each year, many drawn by the area’s impressive mountains and glaciers, including the world’s second highest peak K2.
Pakistan has seen a surge in militant attacks in recent weeks and officials are warning these may spread to the north as the spring tourist season gets under way.
“The interior ministry has officially informed Gilgit-Baltistan that the Pakistani Taliban can strike the region,” a senior official of the Gilgit-Baltistan administration told foreign news agency AFP on condition of anonymity. “The interior ministry has warned of suicide bombings and attacks on tourists in the region.”
Another official, also speaking anonymously, confirmed the warning.
The climbing industry in northern Pakistan was badly hit by the attack on foreign mountaineers at the foot of Pakistan's second highest mountain Nanga Parbat in June last year.
It was the deadliest assault on foreigners in the country for a decade. Those killed were an American with dual Chinese citizenship, three Ukrainians, two Chinese, two Slovakians, one Lithuanian and a Nepalese. A Pakistani guide was also killed.
Police in Gilgit-Baltistan said they were not aware of any specific threat by the Pakistani Taliban but were remaining vigilant.
“We have enhanced security as part of a routine exercise, keeping in mind the latest bout of violence throughout the country,” the deputy chief of Gilgit-Baltistan police, Sher Ali, told AFP.
Police have arrested 18 people over the Nanga Parbat killings but sources in the investigation team formed to probe the matter say they have detained only three actual perpetrators.