ISLAMABAD - Three armed assailants carrying suicide jackets attacked the Chinese consulate in Pakistan’s biggest city, Karachi, Friday morning. They managed to enter the diplomatic compound and took positions before Pakistani security forces engaged them in an intense gunfight. Police sources confirmed that at least two policemen were killed in the exchange of fire.
“There have been no casualties among the Chinese, or our guards, or among the visa applicants, since they managed to get inside,” said Ikram Sehgal, whose company, Security Management Services, guards the consulate.
All of the consulate staff are safe, China’s foreign ministry said Friday.
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi told a local TV channel ARY that a suicide bomber blew himself up to try to make way for two more attackers, but security forces engaged and killed them. He also said 21 Chinese were inside the consulate at the time of the attack.
Security officials cordoned off the area and carried out a clearing operation.
The Baluchistan Liberation Army, a separatist group based in the southwestern province of Baluchistan, claimed responsibility for the attack and released photos of the three attackers. The BLA is an ethnic insurgent group opposed to what it calls Chinese exploitation of natural resources in the country's southwest.
Karachi, the capital of neighboring Sindh province, has a militant presence, including Baluch separatists.
Syed Murad Ali Shah, the chief minister of Sindh province, ordered extra security for the area, which was already heavily guarded. He also called the Chinese consul general to reassure him of adequate security.
Inspector General Ameer Sheikh told journalists the attackers had parked their car at a distance and entered the area on foot. Police found explosive materials inside the car as well.
China is Pakistan’s neighbor and is investing tens of billions of dollars in the country in what is known as the China Pakistan Economic Corridor. It is part of China’s One Belt, One Road initiative.
The corridor is a collection of roads, railway lines and infrastructure projects designed to connect Western China to Pakistan’s port city Gwadar, significantly cutting transport times for Chinese goods shipped to Middle East or Europe.