Nine foreign tourists from China, Russia and Ukraine, along with a Pakistani guide were killed in an unprecedented attack by militants who stormed a hotel near one of the world's highest mountains in a remote area of northern Pakistan, officials said on Sunday.
The armed men wearing police uniforms targeted a hotel at Fairy Meadows in Gilgit-Baltistan that serves as a base camp for mountaineers headed for Nanga Parbat, the world's ninth highest peak.
The attack took place late last night but security forces were alerted about the incident only this morning, officials said.
Speaking in parliament, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said three Chinese nationals, one Russian, five Ukrainians and one Pakistani guide were among the dead.
Another Chinese tourist had been recovered safely, he said.
The Chief Secretary and the police chief of Gilgit-Baltistan, which was earlier known as the Northern Areas, were suspended on the orders of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
The Prime Minister strongly condemned the killing of the foreign tourists in Fairy Meadows and said, "such acts of cruelty and inhumanity would not be tolerated and every effort would be made to make Pakistan a safe place for tourists".
Deputy Inspector General of Police Ali Sher told reporters in Gilgit that the armed men barged into the hotel and killed the tourists.
Police and security forces had cordoned off the area and launched a hunt for the killers.
Gilgit-Baltistan Chief Minister Syed Mehdi Shah said authorities had sought help from the army, which had provided a helicopter for aerial surveillance of the area where the attack took place.
The remoteness of the area and lack of roads and communication facilities had hampered the response by authorities, he said.
About 14 to 16 attackers, wearing uniforms of the Gilgit Scouts, barged into the hotel at 10:30 pm last night, Geo News channel reported.
After tying up about 25 Pakistani staff, the attackers killed the foreign tourists and the Pakistani.
The attackers were in the base camp for almost 90 minutesand left the area at midnight. The paramilitary Frontier Corps was alerted about the incident only at 6 am, Geo News reported.
Other foreign mountaineers and tourists were present in area.
Despite several sectarian attacks that left dozens of Shias dead in the nearby Chilas and Diamer areas last year, there are no security forces or check posts on the sole road leading to the base camp at Fairy Meadows, the channel reported.
The attack was the first of its kind in Gilgit-Baltistan and raised serious questions about the safety of scores of tourists, many of them foreigners, who visit the region.