Pak military helicopter crashes; 2 diplomats, 4 others killed

Islamabad:The ambassadors of the Philippines and Norway were among six persons killed today when a Pakistani military helicopter carrying 11 foreigners crashed into a school setting it ablaze in the PoK while making an emergency landing, army said.

Leif H Larsen, the Norwegian envoy, and Domingo D Lucenario Jr of the Philippines were killed along with the wives of the Malaysian and Indonesian ambassadors, besides two army pilots in the helicopter that caught fire following the crash in Gilgit-Baltistan in the country’s north.

Six Pakistanis and 11 foreigners were on board the Mi-17 helicopter that crashed on a school building in Naltar valley, setting it ablaze.

“Two pilots and four foreigners, including ambassadors of Philippine, Norway and wives of Malaysian and Indonesian ambassador were killed,” military spokesman Major General Asim Bajwa said.

“Update Naltar:2 pilots,4 foreigners fatalities.(Ambs Philippine, Norway,wives of Malaysian& Indonesian Ambs).Injured-Polish&Dutch Ambs-5,” tweeted Bajwa.

Polish ambassador Andrzej Ananiczolish and Dutch ambassador Marcel de Vink were also injured in the crash.

Bajwa said that three Mi-17 military helicopters were carrying several diplomats to Gilgit-Baltistan in Pakistan- occupied Kashmir (PoK) where Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was to address a ceremony.

“Two of the helicopters landed safely but the third one crashed and caught fire,” he said.

The nationalities of the rest of the victims were not known as yet.

The exact cause of crash was also not immediately known.

Sharif was scheduled to visit the region to inaugurate two projects and his plane was already airborne but it was diverted back to Islamabad where it landed safely.

The Prime Minister “expressed deep grief and sorrow” over the incident, according to a statement issued by his office.

The air crash, the worst since 2012 when a civilian 737 went down in Islamabad killing 130 people, was also reminiscent of the one in 1988 that killed then military-ruler General Zia-ul-Haq as well as the US ambassador at the time Arnold Raphel.