ISLAMABAD - Separate attacks by armed insurgents in Pakistan killed at least 34 people and wounded dozens of others.
Authorities in the southern port city of Karachi say at least four people were killed when a group of three armed men carrying suicide vests attacked the Chinese consulate.
A spokesman for the paramilitary force, known as Rangers, told reporters the early morning attack began with one of the assailants blowing himself up near the entrance to the visa section of the diplomatic mission to try to make way for his other partners.
The blast and ensuing hourlong firefight with Pakistani forces guarding the facility killed the other two assailants, said Colonel Faisal. He refuted earlier reports that the attackers had managed to enter the Chinese consulate.
Police officials and doctors confirmed two policemen and two Pakistani visa seekers were among those killed.
The Baluch Liberation Army, a separatist group based in the southwestern province of Baluchistan, claimed responsibility it plotted the attack and released photos of the three bombers.
Pakistani authorities said the attackers parked their car at a distance and marched toward the Chinese consulate before security forces intercepted them. Police later found explosive materials and weapons inside the car as well.
Within few hours of the Karachi attack, a powerful bomb ripped through a crowd of people in the northwestern Orakzai region, killing at least 30 people and wounding more than 40 others. Local officials and witnesses anticipated the casualty toll to rise.
Prime Minister Imran Khan strongly condemned both the attacks in separate statements. He ordered a complete inquiry into the violence against the Chinese consulate, saying the attack was “part of (a) conspiracy” against Pakistan’s “economic and strategic cooperation” with China.
The Chinese embassy denounced the “terrorist” attack on its consulate-general in Karachi, saying no Chinese citizens were killed or injured in it.
“We appreciate the Pakistani army and police for their timely and proper action against the attack. We extend our deep condolences to the two Pakistani policemen martyred in the attack. Any attempt to undermine China-Pakistan relationship is doomed to fail,” vowed the mission in a statement.
Khan praised the Pakistani security forces for swiftly neutralizing the attackers and preventing harm to Chinese diplomats.
China investing billions
China is Pakistan’s neighbor and a strong ally. Beijing is investing tens of billions of dollars in the country in what is known as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor or CPEC. It is part of China’s global Belt and 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.
Pakistan accuses rival India of funding BLA and other militant groups in its bid to undermine CPEC-related Chinese investment in the country, charges New Delhi denies.
Interior Minister Shahryar Afridi repeated those allegations on Thursday, saying India plots subversive acts against his country in war-ravaged Afghanistan, which shares more than 2,600-kilometer largely porous border with Pakistan.