ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN — A Pakistani military helicopter carrying foreign diplomats crashed Friday in the country’s northern mountains, killing at least seven people, including the ambassadors of Norway and the Philippines, officials said.
Maj. Gen. Asim Bajwa, the chief spokesman for the Pakistani military, said the crash happened near Naltar district in the Gilgit-Baltistan region.
Norwegian Ambassador Leif H. Larsen and Philippine Ambassador Domingo D. Lucenario Jr. died in the crash, according to Bajwa. The wives of the Indonesian and Malaysian ambassadors were also killed, as were three crew members, he said.
At least 13 other people were injured, including the Polish and Dutch envoys.
The Mi-17 had been carrying 17 passengers, and it was not immediately clear what caused the crash.
But a Twitter message from Bajwa blamed a “technical fault” and dismissed speculation about an attack — despite a claim from the Pakistani Taliban that it had shot down the helicopter.
Muhammad Khorasani, a spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban, said the group had been targeting Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
Sharif had been flying separately to Gilgit-Baltistan, but he returned to Islamabad upon hearing of the helicopter crash.
Gilgit-Baltistan, which borders China and Indian-controlled Kashmir, includes five of the world’s 14 highest mountains, including K2, the second-highest mountain in the world.
A statement from Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry said envoys from more than 30 countries and their families were part of a three-day trip to the region. According to local media reports, the schedule included the inauguration of a new chairlift for tourists.
The diplomats and family members were flown to Gilgit-Baltistan by a C-130 aircraft and then put aboard four helicopters bound for Naltar.
The U.S. Embassy in Islamabad said none of its personnel were on the trip.
Larsen, 61, joined Norway’s diplomatic corps in 1984 and served in various roles, including as security adviser and liaison with NATO. He took up the post in Islamabad last year.
“He was a much-loved and respected colleague. Many people in the ministry and in our missions abroad are grieving the loss of a good friend and colleague,” said a statement from Norway’s foreign minister, Borge Brende, posted on the Norwegian Embassy’s Web site.
Lucenario, 54, was a lawyer and career diplomat who had served in Africa, Europe and Australia. The Philippine Embassy’s Web site did not immediately post news of the crash.
Craig reported from Dubai.