Seven police officers escorting a Spanish cyclist as he rode through Pakistan while on a round-the-world bike ride have been killed after what local officials and the Spanish government describe as an attempted kidnapping turned into a firefight.
The attack, which left five other police officers injured and one of the presumed kidnappers, took place yesterday in the Balochistan province, which borders Iran to the west and Afghanistan to the north.
The region has seen a number of terrorist attacks and kidnappings of foreign nationals in recent years.
The cyclist has been identified as Javier Colorado, who is said to have sustained minor injuries in the attack, reports Australia Network News.
He was reported to have undergone medical checks and was “in the custody of the provincial administration."
Colorado's family posted a message to his Facebook page, which read: “In the first place we want to thank the Spanish consulate in Pakistan for all their help.
"Today [Javier] will fly to Lahore, on the border with India. His initial intent is to continue his trip."
In a statement issued yesterday, the Spanish government said it wished to “underline the high regard it has for the work of the Pakistani state security forces in defending a Spanish citizen, whose safety and well-being has cost the lives of the police officers who died this morning performing their duties.
The UK’s Foreign & Commonwealth Office advises against all travel to northern and western Balochistan and also warns of “a high threat from terrorism, kidnap and sectarian violence throughout Pakistan.”
Some round-the-world cyclists choose to avoid the country altogether after balancing their sense of adventure with personal safety, while others are prepared to take risks.
None of the 12 participants in the World Cycle Race in 2012 rode through the region, most opting to fly from Turkey to India to skip the Middle East, while two took a more northerly route via Kazakhstan.
In 2009, during his round-the-world bike ride, after being the victim of an attempted kidnapping, James Bowthorpe chose not to ride through Pakistan on his way from Iran to India as a result of security concerns.
Instead, he flew via Dubai, making up the distance sacrificed elsewhere on his circumnavigation.
“It seems like an unnecessary risk to take, not just for myself but everyone there who will be escorting me, especially as violence has increased fourfold over the last year and westerners are also being targeted,” he said at the time.
“I intend to make up the mileage in the US with an extended and much harder route, going further south than originally intended and going over more mountains.”
At the time Bowthorpe set off in his ride in 2009, the Guinness World Record for the fastest navigation of the globe by bicycle was held by the Scot, Mark Beaumont.
He had been warned by the British Embassy not to enter Pakistan, but set off there anyway, arriving a few days before martial law was imposed.
During his time in the country, he was escorted by police officers, sleeping on the floors of police stations each night.
Afterwards, he told the Daily Record: "The police thought it was a waste of their time. They kept trying to pick my bike up and put it in the truck.
"After days of being jeered at I'd had enough. One day I lost it – one of the only times in my life I've done that – and they gave me space afterwards," he added.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.