Montreal mountaineer narrowly escapes death at hands of Taliban

MONTREAL – A Quebec mountaineer made a last minute call to leave an expedition in Pakistan just hours before Islamic militants killed the remaining 10 climbers and a Pakistani guide.

The attack, considered one of the worst against foreigners in Pakistan to date, took place last weekend at a remote base camp in Gilgit-Baltisan, near the summit of Nanga Parbat.

Gabriel Filippi, an experienced mountaineer, left for Pakistan earlier in June with plans to climb Nanga Parbat, but at the last minute, the Montreal resident changed his mind.

“I came to the conclusion that my family was worth more than risking my life for a summit,” he told Global News in an email.

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Widely known as “killer mountain” because of numerous mountaineering deaths in the past, it’s also dubbed the “king of the mountains” in Arabic, as its elevation reaches over 8,000 meters (26,660 feet). It’s the world’s ninth-highest mountain.

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Many foreign tourists stay away from Pakistan because of the country’s reputation as being a dangerous place, although a small number of foreigners visit Gilgit-Baltistan during the summer to take in the towering peaks in the Himalayan and Karakoram ranges, including K2, the second-highest mountain in the world.

“I would place family as priority number one. So I climbed down and left base camp for a 23-hour non-stop of trekking, Jeep ride and car ride through the mountains to finally reach Islamabad. I got the terrible news as I disembarked from the plane in Montreal on Sunday afternoon,” said Filippi.

“I can only be grateful to be alive today and reunited with my family and friends.”

The Pakistani Taliban claimed its Jundul Hafsa faction carried out the attack at Nanga Parbat to avenge the death of their deputy leader Waliur Rehman, in a U.S. drone attack on May 29.

Read the full story of the attacks here

According to the Alpine Club of Pakistan, around 15 gunmen attacked the camp at around 11 p.m. Saturday. The mountaineers were beaten and their money, cell and satellite phones were taken away.

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Some climbers and guides were able to run away, and those that weren’t were shot dead. The one guide that survived, Sawal Faqir, was able to hide a satellite phone, eventually using it to contact authorities.

“Losing 10 friends at once is not an easy situation to deal with,” said Filippi on Wednesday.

“I am living this tragic moment in solidarity with my climbing partners who witnessed the bloodshed left by the Taliban. They have come back to base camp and are now returning home and are dealing with this horrific situation on a personal level.

“My thoughts and prayers are going to the family and friends of the lost ones.”

“The 11 Nanga Parbat murders are considered one of the worst attacks on foreigners in Pakistan in the last decade.

A suicide attack outside a hotel in the southern city of Karachi killed 11 French engineers in 2002. In 2009, gunmen attacked the Sri Lankan cricket team in the eastern city of Lahore, killing six Pakistani policemen, a driver and wounding several players.

– With files from Zarar Khan And Sebastian Abbot, The Associated Press

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