Pakistani police say gunmen stormed the Chinese Consulate in Karachi, triggering an intense shootout
Armed separatists stormed the Chinese Consulate in Pakistan’s Karachi on Friday, triggering an intense hour-long shootout during which two police officers and all three assailants were killed, Pakistani officials said.
The brazen assault, 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.
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.”
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.
“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, and a search is still underway to trace and capture all suspects.” 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 the bodies of two police officers were brought to the hospital morgue while one of the consulate guards who was wounded, is under treatment.
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.
Friday’s attack was a brazen uptick in the level of violence perpetrated by the Baluch separatist, said Amir Rana, executive director of the independent Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies.
So far this year, 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.
But, Rana said, both China and Pakistan have calculated the security risks, which include the threats from the Baluch separatist. “I don’t see that this will have any impact on the Chinese projects in Pakistan. These threats were already on Pakistan and China’s threat radar,” he said.
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.