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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – Armed raiders ambushed Pakistani security forces escorting a pair of Spanish round-the-world cyclists across one of the country’s most dangerous regions killing seven of them, officials told NBC News Wednesday.
A firefight took place as they rode across the restive province of Balochistan. The Spaniards who had entered the country from Iran, escaped unhurt apart from minor injuries sustained when they fell off their bikes.
One attacker died during the assault that also injured five members of the security forces. A third local cyclist who was acting as a guide remains unaccounted for.
Authorities were later able to evacuate the pair of cyclists, as military helicopters were called to help with surveillance and reconnaissance officials said.
Frontier Corps paramilitary troops took them to the state’s provincial capital, Quetta, where one remains under medical observation. One of the cyclists, identified as Javier Colorado by Reuters, suffered minor wounds, police said, but his family said he was unhurt.
According to Colorado's Facebook page, he was planning to cycle around the world, Reuters reported. Early on Wednesday, he posted "Adios Iran, Hola Pakistan" on his page. Colorado's family also posted a message on his Facebook several hours after the attack, according to Reuters: "This is a message from Javier Colorado's family. In the first place we want to thank the Spanish consulate in Pakistan for all their help. We've received a call from the embassy and they have informed us that Javier is well and not hurt. Today he will fly to Lahore, on the border with India. His initial intent is to continue his trip."
With porous borders between neighboring Iran and Afghanistan, Balochistan is known as one of the country’s most violent regions. On Tuesday, 22 were killed in the town of Mastung by a roadside bombing.
The bikers were assigned the escort by security forces because the province is plagued by kidnappers, Taliban militants, a violent separatist insurgency, sectarian killers, paramilitary death squads and drug traffickers.
In a statement, the Spanish Foreign Ministry reached out to Pakistan over the death of Colorado's guards. "The government of Spain wants to transmit to Pakistani authorities its profound concern and grief" over the deaths, said the statement.
NBC News Wajahat S. Kham Reuters contributed to this report.