An explosion ripped through a van inside a university campus in southern Pakistan on Tuesday, killing three Chinese nationals and their Pakistani driver, officials said. A separatist militant group claimed responsibility and said the attack was carried out by a woman suicide bomber.
The bombing at the University of Karachi also wounded a fourth Chinese national and a Pakistani guard accompanying the van, according to university spokesman Mohammad Farooq.
Karachi police chief Ghulam Nabi Memon said an initial investigation showed a suicide bomber was behind the attack. He said that closed circuit television footage from the site showed a person dressed in the female burqa head-to-toe covering walking up to the van, followed by an instantaneous explosion.
The Chinese fatalities included the director of the Chinese-built Confucius Institute, which offers Chinese language graduate classes, and two teachers. The Chinese Embassy in Pakistan confirmed the deaths of three Chinese teachers in what it called a terrorist attack Tuesday evening, saying an additional teacher was injured.
“The Chinese embassy and consulate in Pakistan strongly condemn this terrorist act, express deep condolences to the victims of the two countries and sincere condolences to the injured and their relatives, and will make every effort to deal with the incident along with the Pakistani side,” a statement on the embassy website said.
The embassy asked Pakistan “to make every effort to treat the wounded, conduct a thorough investigation of the attack, and severely punish the perpetrator.” It called on Pakistan to ensure the safety of Chinese citizens in the country.
Hours after the bombing, the U.S. Consulate in the port city of Karachi on Twitter condemned the attack, saying: “This cowardly act stands in direct contrast to the peaceful spirit of Ramadan, and we offer our deepest condolences to the victims and their families and those who lost their loved ones.”
In Islamabad, Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry in a statement condemned the attack and the killing of Chinese in Karachi. “The cowardly incident is a direct attack on the Pakistan-China friendship and ongoing cooperation,” it said and added authorities were investigating the incident to apprehend the culprits and bring them to justice.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif condemned the attack calling it “heinous” saying “the perpetrators will surely be brought to justice.” He also visited the Chinese Embassy along with Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah in Islamabad to convey his condolences to Beijing over the killing of the Chinese in Karachi.
The Baluchistan Liberation Army, a militant group in nearby Baluchistan province, has targeted Chinese nationals in attacks in the past.
The group’s statement that followed Tuesday’s attack identified the bomber as Shari Baluch or Bramsh, saying she was the group’s first female bomber. The attack marks “a new chapter in the history of Baluch resistance,” the statement said.
Baluchistan has long been the scene of a low-level insurgency by armed Baluch groups demanding more autonomy and a greater share in the region’s natural resources if not outright independence from Islamabad.
However, the Pakistani Taliban have also targeted Chinese interest in the past. Last July, the group — also known as the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan — claimed responsibility for an attack on a bus that killed nine Chinese nationals in Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pukhtunkhwa province. Four Pakistanis also died in that attack.
The Pakistani Taliban are a separate group from the Afghan Taliban, their allies who have seized power in neighboring Afghanistan.
Thousands of Chinese workers are living and working in Pakistan, with most of them involved in Beijing’s multibillion-dollar “One Belt One Road Project” that is to connect south and central Asia with the Chinese capital.
A key road linking Pakistan’s southern port of Gwadar, in southwestern Baluchistan province, with China’s northwest Xinjiang province, is part of what is known as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. The project includes a number of infrastructure projects and several power projects.