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Feb 27, 7:12 AM EST

2 inmates accused in killing of 10 tourists flee from jail


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MANSEHRA, Pakistan (AP) -- Two prisoners believed to be involved in the 2013 slaying of 10 foreign climbers at the base of one of the world's tallest mountains escaped from jail in northern Pakistan before dawn Friday, police said.

The Pakistanis held at a jail in the northern city of Gilgit tried to escape after scaling a wall, senior police officer Ishaq Hussain said. He said the guards chased the men, killing one and re-arresting another. But two of their associates escaped.

Hussain said security forces were searching for the prisoners.

He said authorities arrested the four men about six months ago and that they had not yet faced trial. The deaths of the climbers and one of their Pakistani guides at the base of Nanga Parbat shocked the country and the climbing community.

Pakistani Taliban at the time claimed responsibility, saying they killed the climbers to avenge the death of a senior militant leader in a U.S. drone strike in a tribal region bordering Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, a moderate earthquake jolted northwestern Pakistan before dawn Friday, causing panic in several major cities and leaving at least nine people injured, officials said.

Mohammad Arif, an official at the Pakistan Meteorological Department, said the 5.8-magnitude quake caused tremors in the cities of Peshawar, Abbottabad and Mansehra in the Khyber Paktunkhwa province. He said the quake was also felt in the capital, Islamabad.

Javed Khan, a police officer in Peshawar, said people were sleeping when the quake struck and that many people came out of their homes in a panic.

A senior government official, Zarif Mani, said at least nine people were hurt when the quake damaged three mud-brick homes in the district of Battagram. He said the people were hospitalized and in a stable condition but had no further details on their injuries.

Mani said authorities had sent officers to remote areas to assess the situation, but apparently the quake did not cause any major damage.

A magnitude 7.6 quake killed thousands of people in Pakistan and its part of Kashmir, a disputed Himalayan region also claimed by India, in 2005.

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