A round-the world cyclist from Spain said to have been the subject of an attempted kidnapping in Pakistan in which seven guards reportedly died insists the official version of events is incorrect. Javier Colorado says the vehicle he was travelling in was attacked, but none of the occupants was harmed. He also says six – not seven – police officers were killed in a terrorist incident that day, but they were not accompanying him.
Colorado made his claims in a blog post for the website of the Spanish edition of Men’s Health magazine, prefacing his story: “many of you will have heard what happened in Pakistan and I want to explain here and now, because I am the only person who knows what happened.”
As we reported last week, both the Spanish foreign ministry and local officials in Pakistan said that seven guards (some reports said six) lost their lives in what was thought to be a failed kidnap attempt as the Spanish cyclist passed through the Balochistan region, site of a number of abductions of westerners in recent years.
However, Colorado says that didn’t happen. He also insists that he was aware of the potential dangers he might face in the region and that initially he planned to cross it by taking a train from the city of Zahedan in Iran. Unfortunately, harsh conditions in the desert meant he just missed one of the two trains that run each month.
He says that once he took a bus to the border and crossed into Pakistan, he was told that mode of transport was too dangerous for him and he would be given an escort. “Unable to say ‘no’ to such an offer, I accepted it with huge gratitude,” he explained.
For three days he and his bike moved from checkpoint to checkpoint in a relay of vehicles, then he found himself in an area with a heavier than usual military presence and a convoy of vehicles heading towards the mountains. Suddenly, a bomb exploded on a bus, killing the 40 people inside.
After spending the night in a police station, he was once again on the move. “I was travelling with a driver and an armed policeman,” Colorado said. “I was sitting in the rear of the vehicle and after a few minutes, someone threw a hand grenade at our vehicle. It exploded a few metres away and I got a piece of shrapnel in my hand.
“Stunned by the blast and with my ears ringing and blood pouring from the wound, I fell on the floor of the vehicle, next to the escort. The driver accelerated to escape from the numerous shots being fired at the vehicle, and quickly drove me to a clinic 15 kilometres away.”
The Spaniard says that neither the driver nor the guard was injured, while he was taken to a military hospital in Quetta for a check-up, then transferred to the airport under military guard to board a flight for Lahore.
Expressing his gratitude to the Spanish embassy and foreign ministry as well as the Pakistani security forces, he said: “I’m sorry that you only hear about what happens in Pakistan when a foreigner such as me comes under attack. The reality of the citizens of this country is very hard, they live with armed conflict on their doorstep and regrettably many police and soldiers give their lives to defend the population.”
On the issue of the officers who were killed, Colorado said: “Finally, I want to clarify that at the time of the attack on the car in which we were travelling, we were alone on the road and the six policemen who regrettably lost their lives did not die in the attack on my vehicle.”
He added that he was on back on his bike to resume his challenge of cycling round the world.
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.