Four people including three Chinese teachers killed in suicide blast at KU
KARACHI: At least four people, including three citizens of China, were killed in the southern Pakistani of Karachi on Tuesday, in a suicide blast that security forces said had specifically targeted the Chinese.
The explosion ripped through a van carrying the Chinese near a campus of the Karachi University about 2 p.m. local time. It was claimed by the separatist and banned Baloch Liberation Army, which said a woman suicide bomber carried out the attack. BLA has also issued the picture of alleged lady bomber with the name of Shari Baloch Alias Bramsh, Baloch Liberation Army – Majeed Brigade.
Chinese targets have frequently been attacked by separatists from Balochistan, where Beijing is involved in huge infrastructure projects as part of its Belt and Road Initiative.
The blast was the first major attack on Chinese nationals in Pakistan since last year when a suicide bomber blew up a passenger bus, killing 13 people, including nine Chinese workers employed at the Dasu Hydropower Project in northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
Tuesday’s attack is also the first big challenge for newly elected Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, who expressed sorrow over the loss of nationals of Pakistan’s long-time ally, which has been developing the South Asian nation’s major infrastructure projects.
“I strongly condemn this cowardly act of terrorism,” Shehbaz Sharif tweeted. “The perpetrators will surely be brought to justice.”
Beijing has pledged over $60 billion for infrastructure projects in Pakistan under the China Pakistan Economic Corridor framework that is a central part of China’s initiative to forge new “Silk Road” land and sea ties to markets in the Middle East and Europe.
According to police, at least four people, including three Chinese nationals, were killed while four others were injured in a suicide attack outside the University of Karachi’s (KU) Confucius Institute, officials said on Tuesday.
A spokesperson for the university confirmed that three of the victims were Chinese nationals. They were identified as Confucius Institute Director Huang Guiping, Ding Mupeng, Chen Sai and Khalid, the driver. The spokesperson also identified two of the injured as Wang Yuqing and Hamid.
“Academic activities and public dealings will remain suspended at KU on Wednesday (today) to mourn the loss of the Confucius Institute’s faculty members,” the spokesperson said.
Earlier in the day, SSP East Syed Abdul Rahim Sherazi had hinted that a “couple” of Chinese nationals, who were part of KU faculty, were among the deceased.
Television footage showed a white van in flames with plumes of smoke rising from its remains while the windows of nearby buildings were shattered. The van appeared to be turning towards the Confucius Institute, located next to the commerce department, when the incident took place.
CCTV footage of the attack showed a burqa-clad woman standing outside the entrance of the Confucius Institute. The woman detonated herself just as the van neared the institute’s entrance.
Ball bearings found
Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) official Raja Umar Khattab said that the suicide attack was carried out by a woman, adding that ball bearings were found at the site of the blast.
He said the van was properly guarded as a Rangers team was escorting it which was why an improvised explosive device (IED) was not used instead.
Responding to a question, the CTD official said he did not believe a security lapse was the reason behind the attack since thousands of students were coming and going out of the university and checking each of them was a problem.
Karachi police chief Ghulam Nabi Memon said that it was unfortunate that teachers had been targeted. Speaking to the media, he said that four others had been injured, including a Chinese national, a private security guard and a Rangers personnel.
G.N. Memon said that a Rangers team was accompanying the Chinese nationals. Asked whether a threat had been issued prior to the attack, the senior officer said that there was “always a threat”.
He said tight security arrangements were already in place at the varsity, adding that any lapses would be “revisited”. “Give us time to look at the CCTV footage and interview witnesses,” he said. “A burqa-clad woman approached near the van and the blast took place,” he said.
Speaking to the media earlier, DIG East Muqaddas Haider, said initial information showed the van was headed to the institute after leaving the hostel. “The explosion took place at the van’s right side at the [institute’s] entrance. We are still establishing what type of explosion it was,” Haider said, confirming that four people had been killed.
University had expressed security concerns
According to sources, the University of Karachi had sent a letter to the Confucius Institute and had expressed concerns related to the security of the foreign teachers.
In the letter, which was sent to the institute 26 days ago, the university had written that the foreign teachers were often seen travelling outside of the university premises without accompanying security personnel.
Four, including three Chinese nationals, killed in Karachi University blast
“In case of any mishaps, the university security will not be responsible,” the letter said.Following the incident, the University of Karachi, in a notification, announced the suspension of classes on Wednesday, April 27.
Foreign Office’s reaction
Later in the day, the Foreign Office (FO) issued a statement condemning the “reprehensible terrorist attack”.
In a statement, FO spokesperson Asim Iftikhar said the government and the people of Pakistan extend their deepest condolences and sympathies to the families of the victims. “The law enforcement agencies are investigating the incident to apprehend the culprits and bring them to justice. Local authorities are also providing all possible assistance to the injured,” he said.
The FO spokesperson termed the incident a “direct attack on the Pakistan-China friendship and ongoing cooperation”.
Calling the two countries “close friends” and “iron brothers”, he said Pakistan attached great importance to the safety and security of Chinese nationals, projects and institutions in the country.
According to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), PM Shehbaz called Shah to collect information about the “terrorist incident”. “The prime minister said that terrorists are [the] enemies of Pakistan. He vowed to eliminate the remainder of terrorists through collective efforts and unity. He directed for the provision of the best medical facilities to the injured,” the PMO said.
The prime minister also issued a statement on Twitter, saying that he was “deeply grieved” over the loss of precious lives and termed it a “heinous attack”. “My heartfelt condolences go to the bereaved families. I strongly condemn this cowardly act of terrorism. The perpetrators will surely be brought to justice,” he said.
PTI leader Asad Umar said the attack was “yet another attempt to derail the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and sabotage the economic development of Pakistan. The whole nation should be united in its resolve to defeat the aims of these anti-Pakistan hostile forces,” he said.
PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari also condemned the attack and prayed for the lives lost. “Sindh police will soon get to the bottom of the incident,” he said, adding that the perpetrators would be punished. He called for steps to be taken to ensure the safety of Chinese citizens.