Five Chinese Dam Workers, Driver Killed In Pakistan Suicide Attack

On Tuesday, a suicide bomber targeted the car of five Chinese nationals working on a major dam building site in northwest Pakistan, killing them and their driver.

Their vehicle tumbled into a steep valley off the rugged Karakoram Highway when the bomber slammed into them and detonated his explosives, according to authorities.

Beijing has spent billions of dollars into Pakistan in recent years, but Chinese-funded projects have created animosity, and the country’s inhabitants have repeatedly been targeted.

Images sent with AFP show smoke billowing from a valley near Besham, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

“Five Chinese and their local driver were killed in the attack,” Muhammad Ali Gandapur, a senior provincial police official, told AFP.

He said the car was traveling between the Dasu hydroelectric dam site, which is being built by the China Gezhouba Group Company, and the capital, Islamabad.

Zahid Khan, a senior local police official, told AFP that “a suicide bomber crashed his vehicle into theirs”.

“The vehicle caught fire and plunged down the ravine,” he told reporters.

In 2021, a bomb struck a bus taking engineers to the same building site, killing 13 people, including nine Chinese laborers.

Tuesday’s strike came only days after security forces killed at least seven terrorists who attempted to raid the offices of Gwadar Port in southwest Pakistan, which is considered a cornerstone of Chinese investment.

Militants also killed one soldier during an attempt to raid a key naval air base in Pakistan’s southwest, the military said Tuesday.

“Strategic projects and sensitive sites vital for Pakistan’s economic progress and the well-being of its people are being targeted as a conscious effort to retard our progress and slow discord between Pakistan and its strategic allies and partners, most notably China,” it stated.

The incident was classified as a “terrorist act” by the Chinese embassy in Islamabad, according to Chinese state media.

“The Chinese embassy and consulates in Pakistan strongly condemn this terrorist act, and express deep condolences for the victims of both countries and extend sincere sympathies to the families of the victims,” the embassy said in a statement.

‘Plotted to disrupt’

Beijing is Islamabad’s closest regional ally, readily providing financial assistance to bail out its often struggling neighbour.

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has seen tens of billions of dollars funnelled into massive transport, energy and infrastructure projects — part of Beijing’s transnational “Belt and Road” scheme.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and as well as Pakistan’s interior and foreign ministers arrived at China’s embassy in Islamabad within hours of the bombing.

“Once again, the adversaries of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) have plotted to disrupt it through such cowardly acts,” Sharif said in a statement.

“However, they will never succeed in their malevolent ambitions.”

Separatist groups say locals see little benefit from major Chinese projects, with most jobs going to outsiders.

The security of Chinese workers has long been of concern to both countries.

“The Chinese workers were already scared and feared that another attack was coming,” said Azeem Khalid, a Chinese investment expert at COMSATS University Islamabad.

“With every such incident, the speed of the project will be slower.”

In 2019, gunmen stormed a luxury hotel in Balochistan province overlooking the flagship Chinese-backed deep-water seaport in Gwadar that gives strategic access to the Arabian Sea — killing at least eight people.

In June 2020, Baloch insurgents targeted the Pakistan Stock Exchange, which is partly owned by Chinese companies, in the commercial capital of Karachi.

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