Separatist group warns China of more attacks after Karachi suicide bombing

By Zarak Khan and AFP

Police April 26 inspect a site around damaged vehicles following a suicide bombing near the Confucius Institute affiliated with the University of Karachi. [Rizwan Tabassum/AFP]

Police April 26 inspect a site around damaged vehicles following a suicide bombing near the Confucius Institute affiliated with the University of Karachi. [Rizwan Tabassum/AFP]

ISLAMABAD -- A Pakistani separatist group Wednesday (April 27) warned of more deadly attacks on Chinese targets, a day after a woman suicide bomber killed four people -- including three teachers posted from Beijing.

The Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) -- one of several groups fighting for independence in Pakistan's biggest province -- claimed responsibility for Tuesday's blast, saying it was the first time a woman had "self sacrificed" for the group.

"Hundreds of highly trained male and female members of the Baloch Liberation Army's Majeed Brigade are ready to carry out deadly attacks in any part of Balochistan and Pakistan," spokesman Jeeyand Baloch said in a statement published in English, using a slightly different name for the BLA.

He threatened Beijing with "even harsher" attacks unless the neighbouring country halted its "exploitation projects" and "occupying of the Pakistani state".

Three Chinese teachers and a Pakistani driver were killed near the gate of the Confucius Institute at the University of Karachi, when the bomber detonated explosives next to their minibus.

The bomber was named as 30-year-old Shaari Baloch, a married mother of an eight-year-old girl and four-year-old boy, the BLA said, adding that she was a science teacher studying for a master's degree.

The Chinese government funds Confucius Institutes across the world to promote Chinese language and culture.

Pakistan and the United States both have designated the BLA as a terrorist outfit.

'Do not go out unless necessary'

The Pakistani government and Chinese diplomatic missions in Islamabad regularly advise Chinese citizens in Pakistan to be on alert after receiving intelligence reports about possible attacks.

A security official at the university told AFP he had previously raised concerns about the safety of 15 Chinese staff on the campus.

"Reports emerged in February that an attack might be carried out on campus," the source, who asked not to be named, told AFP.

University of Karachi officials on March 31 wrote a letter to Huang, Confucius Institute’s director, warning him of security issues.

"Chinese teachers often move from foreign faculty guest houses outside the campus without Rangers and police protection," said the letter written by Dr. Muhammad Zubair, the university's adviser on campus security affairs.

"They [Chinese nationals] roam freely and do not adopt security measures in the city’s sensitive areas and ... they become targets of attacks of the militant groups," said a security official in Karachi.

China's Foreign Ministry urged Pakistan to ensure the safety of all Chinese citizens and interests in the country and to launch a full investigation.

It also advised citizens to "take strict precautions, and do not go out unless necessary".

Chinese nationals and interests have regularly been targeted by separatists in Balochistan, where Beijing is involved in lucrative mining and energy projects.

China is upgrading energy links and infrastructure as part of a $54 billion programme known as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, with both nations wary of security threats to the projects.

Grievances with Beijing

Balochistan in 2021 witnessed a 93% increase in terrorist attacks, mainly from separatist groups, compared to the previous year, according to the Pak Institute for Peace Studies, an Islamabad-based think-tank.

In April 2021 a suicide bombing at a luxury hotel hosting the Chinese ambassador in Quetta, the provincial capital of Balochistan, killed four and wounded dozens.

The ambassador was unhurt in that attack, which Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed.

In July last year, a bus carrying engineers to a construction site near a dam in northwestern Pakistan was hit by a bomb, killing 13 people, including nine Chinese workers.

The attack, which went unclaimed, frayed relations between Islamabad and Beijing, and Pakistan later paid millions in compensation to the families of the Chinese workers killed.

BLA separatists in February also staged twin assaults on army posts in Noshki and Panjgur districts, Balochistan.

"The February 2 attacks, hours before Prime Minister Imran Khan's China visit, were linked with the Baloch population's grievances with Beijing over its exploitation of [Balochistan's] natural resources," said Mujtaba Baloch, a Panjgur-based political activist, at the time.

Khan's visit was timed to coincide with the start of the Beijing Winter Olympics.

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