Taliban claims responsibility for helicopter crash; Pakistan military refutes claim
The Taliban in Pakistan claims to have shot down the helicopter that crashed in the Gilgit-Baltistan area, in the northern part of Pakistan earlier today. The Pakistan military refutes the claim, stating that the crash was caused by a technical fault on the helicopter.
The death toll for the accident has since risen to 7 people, including the ambassadors to Pakistan from the Philippines, Domingo D Lucenario Jr., and from Norway, Leif H Larsen. The wives of both the Indonesian and Malaysian ambassadors were also killed. The other three fatalities are the helicopter's two pilots and a crew member, all three of them Pakistan nationals. Dutch ambassador Marcel de Vink and Polish ambassador Andrzej Ananiczolish were injured.
AFP reports that an email sent by the Taliban's main spokesman, Muhammad Khorasani, states that Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was their target. "The helicopter was shot down by an anti-aircraft missile, killing pilots and many foreign ambassadors", the email said. This claim has not been verified as of yet.
According to a spokesperson of the Inter-Services Public Relations team in Pakistan, Asim Baja, the crash was caused by a technical fault on the helicopter. An eyewitness to the crash told news agency Tribune that strong winds were blowing when the helicopter crashed. "I saw the chopper going down. The wind was quite strong when this happened", the witness said.
The helicopter, a Mil Mi-17, was one of three carrying a delegation of ambassadors and diplomats to the opening of a project in the northern part of the country. The visit was part of a three-day schedule through the Gilgit-Baltistan territory, which included a meeting with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Reuters reported.