Monday, 9 April 2012

120 foreigners evacuated from Gilgit

ISLAMABAD - Pakistan on Sunday evacuated 120 foreigners, mostly Japanese tourists who had been stranded in the north of the country following sectarian clashes that killed at least 14 people.

Gilgit has been under an indefinite curfew since April 3 when at least 14 people were killed and over 50 wounded in two separate incidents involving majority Sunni and minority Shia communities. Around 120 foreigners including Chinese, German, Japanese, Korean and Thai tourists, were evacuated from Gilgit, officials at the Islamabad airport said.

An AFP photographer said the tourists, both male and female, included 77 Japanese. Earlier senior police officer Tahira Yasubuddin told AFP in Gilgit that a C-130 aircraft had arrived to transport them to Islamabad.

Clashes erupted in the northern town on April 3 after gunmen opened fire during a strike called by Sunnis over the arrest of a leader for his alleged involvement in a sectarian attack in February that left 18 dead. 

After the incident, in which at least five people died, the government imposed a curfew in the town.

The Japanese embassy in Islamabad said earlier that it had confirmed the safety of all the Japanese trapped in the area. With transportation networks cut and food running short at small hotels and other places, the embassy on Friday asked the Pakistani government to transport the Japanese nationals aboard military planes.

The embassy said the trapped Japanese included about 50 in Karimabad in the centre of the Hunza region and about 20 in Gilgit. According to a Japanese travel agency Nihombashi Travellers' Club Co., more than 10 participants on a tour it organised to Pakistan were trapped on their way to Islamabad from Hunza. All of them were staying at a hotel and nobody has complained of illness, the agency said.

Gilgit is a popular tourist destination as one of the main Pakistani jumping-off points for trekkers and climbers in the Karakoram and Himalaya mountain ranges.

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