Four people including two Pakistani civilians, two security personnel were killed when armed terrorists stormed the Chinese consulate in Pakistan’s southern port city of Karachi on Friday. All the three terrorists have been killed, Pakistani officials said.
The Pakistani civilians killed were a father and a son had come to the consulate to pick up their visas to China, police said.
The deadly attack, claimed by a militant group from the southwestern province of Baluchistan, reflected the separatists’ attempt to strike at the heart of Pakistan’s close ties with major ally China, which has invested heavily into road and transportation projects in the country, including in Baluchistan.
All the Chinese diplomats and staff at the consulate were safe and were not harmed during the attack or the shootout, senior police official Ameer Ahmad Sheikh said.
Meanwhile, China has asked Pakistan to beef up security at the mission. In Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said that China would not waver in its latest major project in Pakistan — the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor — and expressed confidence that Pakistan could ensure security.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan condemned the attack, describing it as part of a conspiracy against Pakistan and China’s economic and strategic cooperation. Khan lauded the Karachi police and the paramilitary rangers, saying they showed exceptional courage in defending the consulate and that the “nation salutes the martyrs.”
He ordered an investigation and vowed that such incidents would never be able to undermine relations with China, which are “mightier than the Himalayas and deeper than the Arabian Sea.”
The attackers stormed the consulate shortly after 9 a.m., during business hours. They first opened fire at consulate guards and hurled grenades, then managed to breach the main gate and enter the building, said Mohammad Ashfaq, a local police chief.
Pakistani security forces quickly surrounded the area. Local TV broadcast images showing smoke rising from the building, which also serves as the residence of Chinese diplomats and other staff.
Multiple blasts were heard soon afterward but Sheikh could not say what they were. The shootout lasted for about an hour.
“Because of a quick response of the guards and police, the terrorists could not” reach the diplomats, Sheikh said after the fighting ended. “We have completed the operation.”
He added that one of the attackers was wearing a suicide vest and that authorities would try and identify the assailants through fingerprints.
Dr Seemi Jamali, a spokeswoman at the Jinnah Hospital, said a consulate guards was also wounded in the attack and was being treated at the hospital.
Geng, the Chinese spokesman, said the attackers hadn’t managed to get into the consulate itself, and the exchange of fire took place outside the building. The discrepancy with the Pakistani officials’ reports could not be immediately reconciled.
Elsewhere in Pakistan on Friday, a powerful bomb at an open-air food market in the Orakzai region of the Khyber Pukhtunkhwa province, which borders Afghanistan, killed 25 people and wounded dozens of others, said police official Tahir Ali.
Most of the victims in the attack in the town of Klaya were minority Shiite Muslims. No one immediately claimed responsibility for the bombing. Orakzai has been the scene of several militant attacks in recent years, mostly by Pakistani Sunni militants, who revile Shiites as apostates.
In its claim of responsibility for the Karachi consulate attack, the Baluch Liberation Army, said it was fighting “Chinese occupation” and released photos of the three attackers.
This was the second attack this year by Baluch separatists in Pakistan. Karachi, the capital of Sindh province, which borders Baluchistan, has a presence of several militant groups, including Baluch separatists.
In August, a suicide bomber rammed into a bus ferrying Chinese workers to the Saindak mining project in southwestern Baluchistan, wounding five workers. The project is controlled by the Chinese state-owned Metallurgical Corporation of China. And in May, gunmen opened fire on two Chinese nationals in Karachi, killing one and wounding the other.
The Baluch Liberation Army has claimed responsibility for 12 attacks against security personnel guarding projects linked to the so-called Chinese Pakistan Economic Corridor as well as to the infrastructure so far this year.
In a letter dated Aug. 15, the group released a letter warning China against the “exploitation of Baluchistan’s mineral wealth and occupation of Baloch territory.” The letter was addressed to China’s ambassador to Pakistan.
China is a longtime ally and has invested heavily in transport projects in Pakistan. The two countries have strengthened ties in recent years and China is currently building a network of roads and power plants under a project known as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, or CPEC.
The Baluchistan separatists have for years fought a low level insurgency in Pakistan, demanding a greater share of the province’s wealth and natural resources
In a rare statement about attacks in Pakistan, neighboring India condemned the assault on the Chinese Consulate, saying that “there can be no justification whatsoever for any act of terrorism.”
New Delhi also said, “perpetrators of this heinous attack should be brought to justice expeditiously.”
Meanwhile, Pakistan has assured China on Friday of "robust security" to Chinese nationals in the country and thoroughly probe the terror attack on the Chinese consulate in Karachi that killed four people.
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi telephoned Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi to apprise him of the prompt action taken by the security forces to thwart the attack and the death of two policemen in the security operation, according to the Foreign Office.
"Pakistan is fully committed to taking all necessary measures to provide robust security to all Chinese nationals in Pakistan," Qureshi said.
Qureshi also assured the Chinese state councilor that a thorough investigation will be done to arrest the financiers, planners and facilitators behind the attack. He said Pakistan and China will continue to cooperate to thwart the designs of hostile forces against their "time-tested" friendship.
WATCH: Terror attack on Chinese Consulate in Karachi