The Taliban militant group has claimed responsibility for a helicopter crash in northern Pakistan in which several envoys were killed, saying that they had targeted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
“The helicopter was shot down by an anti-aircraft missile, killing pilots and many foreign ambassadors,” an Urdu-language statement emailed by the group’s main spokesman Muhammad Khorasani said on Friday.
He added, “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.”
Officials have not yet commented on the Taliban claim.
Asim Bajwa, a Pakistani army spokesman, said earlier in the day that the accident happened as a convoy of three helicopters carrying a delegation of foreign diplomats and their aides to Pakistan’s Gilgit-Baltistan territory went down on a school.
“So far; two pilots and two-three foreigners fatalities. Thirteen survivors with varying degree of injuries,” Bajwa wrote on social media website Twitter.
However, latest reports indicate that ambassadors of the Philippines and Norway were among those killed in the deadly helicopter crash. Wives of the Malaysian and Indonesian ambassadors have also lost lives in the fatal accident. Polish and dutch ambassadors have also been among the wounded.
The injured have been airlifted to a military hospital in Gilgit, the region’s administrative capital.
Meanwhile, sources say the death toll from the aerial crash could rise much higher.
“We have been told to send in as many ambulances as we can because the situation there is ‘urgent’, media outlets quoted a senior health official as saying.
Officials have also warned the situation was “urgent” after the helicopter crashed into the school with children inside. Some unconfirmed reports said the school had caught fire immediately after the crash.
The developments have raised new questions about the safety record of air travel across Pakistan following a series of aerial accidents in recent years.