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U.S. Climbers in Nepal Claim Attack

September 30, 2002

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KATMANDU, Nepal (AP) _ Two American mountain climbers say they came under fire from men who appeared to be Chinese soldiers during a hike in Nepal near the border.

Jeff Lamoureux, 36, and David Morton, 31, both from Seattle, Wash., said in an interview Monday in Katmandu that two men shot at them on Sept. 20 while they were looking for a new route to climb 23,984-foot Mount Nagpai Gosum.

They were more than seven miles inside Nepalese territory at the time, they said.

``We could not believe we were being shot at. There were at least five shots fired at us,″ Lamoureux said.

Lamoureux said at least one gunman was wearing a Chinese army uniform.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry in Beijing said it had no information on the case but would investigate.

No similar incidents have been reported in the past and the motive remained unclear.

The climbers said they were walking a trail used by traders and refugees to sneak in and out of Tibet when they met a Chinese man who seemed nervous.

``He motioned us to give food and we gave him something to eat and drink. He unzipped his jacket to show us his army uniform and he was carrying an automatic rifle,″ Morton said.

After the man left, they saw another man not far behind, hiding behind rocks and decided that they should return to a nearby village. There they met the same Chinese man, who used motions and broken English to thank them for the food.

The Americans left the village, heading toward the base camp, when they realized they were being shot at by two men, including the Chinese man they had helped.

``We probably ran and hid behind the boulders for four hours before we reached our base camp,″ Morton said. ``We waited until it was 7:30 p.m. and then headed directly to the nearest village.″

The altitude made it difficult to run, Lamoureux said. ``I could taste blood in the back of my throat while I was running,″ he said, describing a condition that occurs at high altitudes, where there is less oxygen.

After three days, they reached Namche, a town at the foot of Mount Everest, notified police and went back with a police escort to collect their gear, backpacks and money they left behind when they fled.

Morton said when they returned with the police, a group of Tibetan refugees and Yak traders confirmed the presence of Chinese soldiers and said they had heard the shooting.

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