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Rescuers inspect the scene of a blast on Wednesday that hit a bus carrying Chinese nationals to the site of Dasu dam in Pakistan. Photo: Rescue 1122 handout via EPA

China urges Pakistan to ‘severely punish’ bus attackers after blast kills 13, including nine Chinese nationals

  • While Pakistani officials said the nature of the blast was under investigation, the Chinese embassy in Islamabad said its nationals had come under ‘attack’
  • The bus was on its way to the Dasu hydropower project, part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor under construction in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province
China on Wednesday called for the swift arrest of the attackers behind a bus blast in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province which killed 13 people including nine Chinese nationals.

Condemning the attack, Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian urged Pakistan to “severely punish” the perpetrators “and earnestly protect the safety of Chinese nationals, organisations and projects” in the country.

The bus was carrying Chinese engineers, surveyors and mechanical staff to a dam construction site in Dasu, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province where a hydroelectric project is under construction.

“The blast sparked a fire in the engine plunging the vehicle into a ravine," a local government official said, adding that as many as 28 other Chinese nationals had been injured. Arif Javed, a deputy district commissioner, said at least 36 people were hurt.

China described it as a “bombing” and an “attack”, although Pakistan’s foreign ministry blamed a mechanical failure for a “leakage of gas that caused a blast”.

In a statement on Wednesday, the Chinese embassy in Pakistan said that “a certain project of a Chinese firm in Pakistan suffered an attack, which caused the deaths of Chinese nationals”. It urged Chinese firms to strengthen their security procedures.

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian expressed his “shock and condemnation over the bombing”.

Asim Abbasi, an assistant commissioner in Kohistan, said authorities were investigating whether there was some type of explosion on the bus. He said a gas cylinder may have exploded and it was also possible there had been explosive material, such as that used by engineers in construction projects, in the vehicle.


Bus explosion in Pakistan kills at least 13 people, including nine Chinese nationals

Bus explosion in Pakistan kills at least 13 people, including nine Chinese nationals

Inspector General Moazzam Jah Ansari, the top police official of Khyber-Paktunkhwa, said two soldiers and two locals were also among the dead. “Looks like sabotage,” he said as he left on a helicopter for the site.

Security of Chinese workers has long been an issue of concern in Pakistan, where Beijing has poured in tens of billions of dollars in recent years, and large numbers of Chinese nationals are now based in the country to supervise and build infrastructure projects.

But Chinese-funded projects have sparked resentment, particularly among separatist groups, who say locals see little benefit, with most jobs going to outsiders.

In April, the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for a deadly suicide blast at a luxury hotel hosting the Chinese ambassador, who was unhurt, in southwest Balochistan.
The group has recently claimed a string of attacks not only in Pakistan’s restive tribal areas along the Afghanistan border but also in the country’s cities, including the capital Islamabad.

Biden leaves China a Xinjiang terrorism problem with US exit from Afghanistan

In 2019, gunmen stormed a luxury hotel in Balochistan overlooking a flagship Chinese-backed project – the deepwater seaport in Gwadar that gives China strategic access to the Arabian Sea – killing at least eight people.
And last June, Baloch insurgents targeted the Pakistan Stock Exchange in the commercial capital of Karachi, which is partly owned by Chinese companies.
The Dasu hydroelectric project is part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a US$65 billion investment plan under Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative that is aimed at connecting western China to the Gwadar seaport in southern Pakistan.

Chinese engineers along with Pakistani construction workers have been working on the Dasu hydroelectric project and others for several years in the region where the blast took place.

Additional reporting by DPA, Reuters, Associated Press

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: China anger as bus blast kills workers on way to dam site