Four people were killed yesterday when gunmen armed with hand grenades and a suicide vest stormed the Chinese consulate in Karachi, officials said, with the attack claimed by a separatist group that branded Beijing “an oppressor.”
Pakistani authorities said that security forces had secured the area after the attack, the latest assault on Chinese nationals in the country, where Beijing has poured billions of dollars into one of the largest projects in its massive Belt and Road Initiative.
China “strongly condemned” the attack and asked Pakistan to take measures to ensure the safety of Chinese citizens and institutions in the country, as well as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) megaproject.
Three gunmen tried to enter the consulate, but were intercepted by guards at a checkpoint, Karachi Police Chief Ameer Sheikh told reporters.
“They were holding Kalashnikovs. First, they hurled a small [grenade] and then started firing,” said Allah Bakhsh, a guard at a nearby house who witnessed the attack.
Police officials said two officers were killed, along with a father and son from Quetta, the capital of Balochistan Province, who were seeking Chinese visas and were caught in the crossfire.
At least one of the attackers was wearing a suicide vest, which did not detonate, another senior police official said.
Pakistani Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs Shah Mehmood Qureshi told reporters in Islamabad that “all the terrorists have been eliminated,” and that all 21 staff at the consulate during the attack had been taken to a safe location.
The attack was claimed by a separatist militant group from southwestern Balochistan, which is at the center of the CPEC, the major Chinese project in the country.
“We have been seeing the Chinese as an oppressor, along with Pakistani forces,” Balochistan Liberation Army spokesman Geand Baloch told reporters by telephone from an undisclosed location, adding that they were “destroying the future of Balochistan.”
The group later e-mailed a statement to media saying that the attack was “aimed at making it clear that China’s military expansionism on Baloch soil will not be tolerated.”
It warned China to leave or “be prepared for continued attacks.”
The group is just one of many militant outfits operating in Balochistan, Pakistan’s largest and poorest province, which is rife with ethnic, sectarian and separatist insurgencies.
Many are active on social media. After the attack, Twitter suspended an account that the Balochistan Liberation Army had also used to issue its claim.
Residents of the resource-rich province, which borders Iran and Afghanistan, have long complained that it does not receive a fair share of the profits made from its mineral wealth.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said the attack would not undermine the Pakistan-China relationship, which he described as “mightier than Himalayas and deeper than Arabian Sea.”
Separately yesterday, a bomb hidden in a carton of vegetables killed at least 31 people at a marketplace in Pakistan’s northwestern tribal region.
Dozens more people were wounded, with fears that the toll could rise.
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