Pakistan evacuates 120 foreigners caught in curfew

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Pakistan on Sunday evacuated 120 foreigners, mostly Japanese tourists who had been stranded in the north of the country following sectarian clashes that killed at least 14 people.

The town of Gilgit 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.

Around 120 foreigners including Chinese, German, Japanese, Korean and Thai tourists, were evacuated from Gilgit, officials at the Islamabad airport said.

An AFP photographer said the tourists, both male and female included 77 Japanese.

Earlier senior police officer Tahira Yasubuddin told AFP in Gilgit that a C-130 aircraft had arrived to transport them to Islamabad.

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

After the incident, in which at least five people died, the government imposed a curfew in the town.

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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