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7 Russian hikers reported missing in Xinjiang mountains

A search and rescue operation has been launched for seven Russian hikers missing in the remote Kunlun Mountain Range in northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, local officials said today.

The Russians hiked to the mountains in Minfeng County, Hotan Prefecture, on Sept. 15, said a spokesman with the prefectural committee of the Communist Party of China, quoting their Chinese interpreter, Zhang Hong.

Zhang accompanied them to the Minfeng County seat and returned to Urumqi, the regional capital, alone, the spokesman said. "The Russian tourists contacted Zhang by satellite telephone on Oct. 13, saying they were in danger and one of them was sick."

Zhang called police in Minfeng County and requested help.

A five-member rescue team of doctors and guides was immediately sent into the mountains, but no trace of the hikers was found, the spokesman said.

The Kunlun Mountain Range has an elevation of up to 6,000 meters and an extremely harsh climate.

In September 2007, four Russian tourists died in a canoe trip in the mountains. They, too, were accompanied by Zhang Hong.


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