China says ‘shocked’ by suicide bomb attack on Chinese nationals in Pakistan

Beijing, Aug 23 (PTI) China on Monday said it is shocked by last week’s suicide bomb attack on a vehicle carrying Chinese personnel in Pakistan, the second such incident in over a month, and asked Islamabad to punish the perpetrators and step up security for scores of its workers employed in CPEC projects.

On August 20, a motorcade of the Gwadar East Bay expressway project was attacked by a bomber on the way to the construction site in the restive Balochistan province, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told a media briefing here.

Gwadar is the culmination point of the USD 60 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). A large number of Chinese experts and workers are employed in Gwadar and the surrounding areas to complete various projects under the CPEC.

One Chinese national suffered minor injuries and several local personnel were injured or killed, Wang said in reply to a question.

According to a statement issued by Pakistan authorities, the suicide bomb attack was carried out by a young boy who ran out of the colony, once the convoy reached there, to target Chinese vehicles.

We are shocked and condemn this incident, mourn the Pakistani personnel killed in the attack and convey sympathy to the bereaved families and injured, Wang said.

We urge the Pakistan side to arrest the perpetrators and punish them as soon as possible, he said, adding that Islamabad has assured to take every effort to ensure the safety of the Chinese personnel working in various projects in Pakistan.

China will work with Pakistan to address the terrorist threats and protect the safety of our people and personnel in Pakistan, Wang said.

According to a report published in the state-run Global Times on August 21, Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA), which is fighting for the self-determination of the Baloch people, has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Reiterating that terrorism is the common enemy of mankind, Wang said, “China firmly opposes any force using terrorism to seek geopolitical interests and called on all regional countries to collaborate in eradicating terrorist groups and upholding the common safety and development interests of all the countries in the region.

There is a sense of disquiet and concern in China over the increasing attacks on Chinese personnel in Pakistan especially in the light of the volatile situation prevailing in Afghanistan after the Taliban took control over Kabul.

A host of militant organisations, including the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) which is carrying out attacks against Pakistan, besides Al-Qaeda and Islamic State (IS) fought along with Taliban in Afghanistan and reportedly continue to operate from there.

The Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post in a recent report quoted a confidential parliamentary briefing of Pakistan’s politicians on July 2 where Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency chief Lieutenant General Faiz Hameed described the Taliban and the TTP as the sides of the same coin .

TTP was blamed by Pakistan for last month’s bus bomb blast at Dasu in restive Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in which 13 people, including nine Chinese nationals, were killed.

Chinese nationals also came under attack in Karachi last month when they were fired upon by gunmen from a moving vehicle. For cash-strapped Pakistan, ties with China are crucial due to its increasing economic dependence on Beijing.

China is involved in several projects aiming at the development of the Gwadar port on the Arabian Sea which is a part of China’s Belt and Road infrastructure project.

In the last few months, there has been an increase in terror attacks targeting Chinese nationals in Balochistan and Karachi who are working on the CPEC projects and for private enterprises.