Pakistan evacuates scores of Japanese tourists

Filed on April 8, 2012

GILGIT, Pakistan - Pakistan on Sunday sent a military aircraft to the northern town Gilgit to evacuate over 80 foreigners, mostly Japanese tourists, who were stranded due to sectarian violence, police said.

The town 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 Shiite communities in Gilgit and Chilas towns.

Around 65 Japanese, mostly tourists are being transported with police escort to Gilgit from the nearby Hunza valley, senior police officer Tahira Yasubuddin told AFP.

Another batch of more than 20 Japanese and some other foreign visitors are stranded in Gilgit, she said.

“A C-130 aircraft has arrived in Gilgit to evacuate them,” the officer said, adding they would be flown to Islamabad later.

Clashes erupted in Gilgit on April 3 after gunmen opened fire during a strike called by Sunni Islamists over the arrest of one of their leaders for his alleged involvement in a sectarian attack in February that left 18 dead.

After the incident the government imposed a curfew in the city.

Also on April 3 in Chilas, a Sunni-dominated town about 100 kilometres (60 miles) south of Gilgit, a mob blocked the main Karakoram Highway and killed nine Shiite Muslims.

Gilgit is the capital of Pakistan’s far northern Gilgit-Baltistan region and is popular with mountaineers as a gateway to the Karakoram and Himalayan mountain ranges.

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