Two policemen were killed on Friday when gunmen stormed the Chinese consulate in the Pakistani city of Karachi, officials said, with the attack claimed by a separatist group which branded Beijing “an oppressor”.
Pakistani authorities said that security forces had secured the area after the attack, the latest in a series of assaults on Chinese nationals, including workers involved in a multi-billion dollar infrastructure project in the country.
Multiple gunmen tried to enter the consulate in the southern port city, but were intercepted by guards at a checkpoint, senior local police official Javaid Alam Odho told AFP.
An exchange of fire resulted in the “killing two of our constables and critically wounding another”, he said, adding that at least one attacker had been wearing a suicide vest which did not detonate.
Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told reporters in Islamabad that “all the terrorists have been eliminated”.
“Terrorists attempted to enter Chinese consulate. Rangers and police have got control. Three terrorists killed. All Chinese safe. Situation under control,” the military’s media wing said in a statement.
The attack was claimed by a separatist militant group from Pakistan’s southwestern province of Balochistan, which is at the centre of a major Chinese investment project in the country.
“We have carried out this attack and our action is continuing,” the spokesman for the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA), Geand Baloch, told AFP by telephone from an undisclosed location.
“We have been seeing the Chinese as an oppressor, along with Pakistani forces,” he said, adding they were “destroying the future of Balochistan”.
The BLA is just one of the militant groups operating in Balochistan, Pakistan’s largest and poorest province, which is rife with ethnic, sectarian and separatist insurgencies.
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.
China, one of Pakistan’s closest allies, has poured billions into the South Asian country in recent years as part of a massive infrastructure project that seeks to connect its western province Xinjiang with the Arabian Sea port of Gwadar, in Balochistan.
The project, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, is one of the largest in Beijing’s “One Belt One Road” initiative, comprising a network of roads and sea routes involving 65 countries.
For Pakistan, participating in the project presents an enormous challenge in a country plagued by weak institutions, endemic corruption and a range of insurgencies in areas slated to host the corridor.
The subject of economic dividends from CPEC is extremely sensitive in some of the areas the corridor will run through — particularly in Balochistan.
Since the beginning of the project militants have repeatedly attacked construction sites, blowing up numerous gas pipelines and trains, and targeted Chinese workers.
In August this year three Chinese nationals were among six wounded in a suicide attack on a bus transporting Chinese engineers working on a mining project in Balochistan, in an attack that was also claimed by the BLA.
China has said it is confident the Pakistani military — which has been repeatedly accused by international rights groups of abuses in Balochistan — is in control of the issue.
Islamabad regularly accuses its eastern neighbour India of funding and arming Baloch separatists, and of targeting development projects in the province, particularly CPEC.
Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city and the capital of Sindh province which neighbours Balochistan, was for years rife with political, sectarian and ethnic militancy.
A crackdown in the city by security forces in recent years has brought a lull in violence, but scattered attacks still take place.