Monday, April 15, 2024

Suicide Bomb Attack in Pakistan Kills 5 Chinese Nationals

HomeWARSuicide Bomb Attack in Pakistan Kills 5 Chinese Nationals

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — They were simply heading to work that morning. Just another routine convoy transporting Chinese engineers to help build a major dam in Pakistan’s northwest. But then a suicide bomber struck, ramming an explosives-rigged vehicle into their path in a horrific scene of shrapnel and fire.

When the smoke cleared, five Chinese nationals lay dead, along with their Pakistani driver. A brazen attack had once again demonstrated the persistent dangers surrounding Beijing’s infrastructure push across this volatile region.

The assault unfolded around 7:30 a.m. in the remote, mountainous province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The Chinese engineers were traveling from the capital Islamabad to their work camp near the Dasu dam construction site, part of the $60 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor or CPEC.

“Five Chinese nationals and their Pakistani driver embraced martyrdom in this attack by a suicide bomber,” Mohammad Ali Gandapur, the provincial police chief, told reporters, using the term Pakistan reserves for victims of militant violence.

No group immediately claimed responsibility. But the bomb tore through the convoy with brutal efficiency, leaving the road strewn with debris and dead in the wake of the blast’s hellish force.

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The attack fits a recent pattern of strikes aimed squarely at China’s ever-expanding interests and personnel in Pakistan through its Belt and Road infrastructure initiative. Just days earlier, separatists in Balochistan province attacked a heavily fortified airbase used by Chinese nationals.

For Beijing, the assaults imperil its multibillion-dollar investment pushing roads, power plants and pipelines across Pakistan. Thousands of its engineers and construction workers have fanned out across the country in recent years on these ambitious nation-building projects.

Pakistan has vowed maximum security for the Chinese laborers as they link the two nations together in an “iron brotherhood” under CPEC. But the economic corridor has also turned Chinese nationals into high-profile targets for militants opposed to the development they see as a threat.

“We will not tolerate these cowardly attacks and the security of the Chinese people will be ensured at all costs,” Pakistan’s Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah declared after Tuesday’s blast.

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China has already lent Pakistan over $11 billion for road projects and is planning $8.5 billion more just for rail upgrades under CPEC. The eye-popping price tags have some Pakistani officials worried their country is getting trapped in a Chinese “debt ditch” that could spark a financial crisis.

But the glamorous civil works mask the high-risk reality for Chinese personnel on the ground, especially in the remote border areas where Tuesday’s convoy was struck.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, home to Dasu and its Chinese-built hydroelectric dam that has repeatedly come under attack. In 2021, a suicide blast struck a bus shuttling workers to the dam site, killing 13 people including 9 Chinese engineers and staff. Officials first called it an accident before acknowledging it was a planned militant assault.

Tuesday’s bombing showed such brazen attacks are still possible, no matter how many security vows are made. Analysts said the strike likely originated from Islamic militants roaming the borders with Afghanistan, or separatist groups vehemently opposed to Chinese encroachment into Pakistan’s restive frontier provinces.

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“This was a high-profile attack aimed at slowing progress on CPEC projects,” said regional security analyst Ahsan Ullah Abki. “Pakistan must secure these projects and the Chinese personnel at all costs to assure Beijing that their investments are protected.”

Pakistani officials insisted they will redouble efforts to lock down the porous border areas and forestall any more such strikes. But the images emerging from the blast scene in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa — the blackened convoy vehicles, debris scattered across the roadway — only underscored the massive security challenge Pakistan faces.

Each new assault chips away at Beijing’s confidence that its desire to remold Pakistan through infrastructure can overcome the persistent militant threats. With billions more in Chinese yuan expected to flow into the economic corridor projects, both nations have a vested interest in preventing more scenes of fire, smoke and lives lost on the roads of Pakistan.

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Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee is a prolific author who provides commentary and analysis on business, finance, politics, sports, and current events on his website Opportuneist. With over a decade of experience in journalism and blogging, Mezhar aims to deliver well-researched insights and thought-provoking perspectives on important local and global issues in society.

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