Asia

Karachi Police Stop Attack Meant for Chinese Consulate

KARACHI, Pakistan — Pakistani security forces stopped an attempted terrorist attack on the Chinese Consulate in the city of Karachi on Friday morning, officials said, after an extended gun battle outside a security checkpoint.

Officials said that all three attackers were killed, and that two police officers were dead. On the street, the police checkpoint could be seen pocked with bullet marks.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told Pakistan’s National Assembly that the first attacker detonated an explosive vest while the other two opened fire and tried to rush toward the consular section where visas are issued. He said that no civilians, Chinese or Pakistani, were hurt or killed.

Police officials said that at least one suicide vest had been recovered, and bomb squad members were on the scene to dispose of the undetonated explosives. One wounded police officer was taken to a hospital near the site of the attack.

A Twitter account associated with the Baluchistan Liberation Army, a separatist group in the sprawling and violent province of Baluchistan, said that three of its members had “embraced martyrdom” in an attack on the Chinese Consulate.

In a video sent to an Indian news service in March, Aslam Baloch, a senior commander of the militant group, accused China and Pakistan of plundering resources in Baluchistan, which his group wants to turn into an independent state.

The group claimed responsibility for an attack in August on a bus carrying Chinese mining workers in southwestern Pakistan near the country’s borders with Afghanistan and Iran. The suicide bomber died and the workers were slightly injured.

China has called Pakistan a showcase for its huge international development program, the Belt and Road Initiative and is estimated to have spent some $62 billion on those projects there, mostly in Baluchistan.

Among the projects is a deepwater port in the town of Gwadar that is operated by a Chinese state-backed company. But locals have complained that the huge investment has done little to benefit their lives.

Attacks on Chinese citizens in Pakistan have been rare, but not unknown. In May last year, a couple from China — Lee Zing Yang, 24, and Meng Li Si, 26 — were kidnapped and then killed in the city of Quetta, Baluchistan. Militants loyal to the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack.

In Friday’s attack, Amir Jan, a driver who was washing his car near the consulate, said he saw three men with Kalashnikov assault rifles move toward the consulate around 9:15 a.m. He said they threw a grenade and then opened fire.

The China News Service, a government-run news agency, said that the consul general, Wang Yu, and all other Chinese staff members were safe.

Karachi, home to 15 million people, is Pakistan’s largest city and its economic powerhouse. The neighborhood where the attack on Friday happened, near the Arabian Sea, is mostly residential and upscale, including many homes and restaurants.

The gunfire could be heard from several miles away, and witnesses on social media posted photos of smoke rising into the air. Schools in the area were placed on lockdown.

Pakistan has tightened its economic ties to China in recent years, with Beijing recently giving Pakistan a $2 billion loan to help shore up its finances, money that followed $1 billion that was given by Chinese banks in April.

But China has also come under increasing criticism in Pakistan, including over its treatment of ethnic Uighur Muslims in China’s Xinjiang region.

“A big international conspiracy has been foiled by prompt security action,” Faisal Vawda, a federal minister, told reporters in Karachi. “This was an attempt to sabotage our relations with China.”

Meher Ahmad reported from Karachi, Salman Masood from Islamabad. Daniel Victor and Austin Ramzy contributed reporting from Hong Kong, and Chris Buckley from Beijing.

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