© Reuters. Police officers and members of the investigation team gather near a van after an explosion at the entrance of the Confucius Institute University of Karachi, Pakistan April 26, 2022. REUTERS / Akhtar Soomro
By Asif Shahzad
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – A bomb blast on a minibus killed three Chinese employees at Karachi University’s Confucius Institute on Tuesday, officials and police said, in the first major attack in Pakistan on nationals of a longtime ally of China since last year.
The three were among passengers on a minibus driving near the university when the bomb exploded and killed the Chinese and a fourth person, a Pakistani, police said.
The Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) separatist group claimed responsibility for the blast, adding in an email sent to Reuters that it had been carried out by a female suicide bomber.
The blast was the first major attack in an urban area of Pakistan since Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif took power this month. He condemned what he called a cowardly act of terrorism.
“I am deeply saddened by the loss of precious lives, including our Chinese friends, in the heinous attack in Karachi today,” Sharif said in a statement.
A university spokesman told Reuters the dead included the Chinese director of the Confucius Institute, a Chinese language and culture center, and other faculty members of the institute.
Pakistan’s foreign ministry also condemned the attack.
“The cowardly incident is a direct attack on the friendship between Pakistan and China and the ongoing cooperation,” said Pakistan’s Foreign Office, “Pakistan attaches great importance to the security and safety of Chinese citizens, projects and institutions in Pakistan,” it added.
The blast was the first major attack on Chinese nationals in Pakistan since last year when a suicide bomber blew up a passenger bus in northern Pakistan that killed 13 people, including nine Chinese.
Karachi police chief Ghulam Nabi told reporters that the blast killed three foreigners and a local.
“The reports we have received are that they are Chinese,” he said in comments sent directly from the crime scene. He said the three Chinese were teachers at Karachi University.
Nabi said a local guard and another Chinese man who was in the van were critically injured
The BLA earlier this year attacked two army bases in southwestern Balochistan province, killing seven soldiers, and lost 13 of the attackers in an hour-long gun battle with the Pakistani army.
Baloch separatist guerrillas, who say they are fighting for a larger share of regional resources of mines and minerals, usually attack gas projects, infrastructure and security forces.
They also attack Chinese projects and occasionally kill Chinese workers despite Pakistani assurances that they are doing everything they can to protect the projects.