Three Chinese nationals, including two women, were among four people killed on Tuesday when a powerful blast ripped through a van inside the premises of the University of Karachi in Pakistan’s financial capital, officials said, in what is believed be the latest targeted attack against them.
According to reports, the blast occurred in the van near China-built Confucius Institute – a non-profit institute teaching Chinese language to local pupils- in the port city.
Initial information from a reliable police source said that the two women killed in the blast were Chinese nationals and may have been the target of the blast.
A spokesperson for the university said that three of the victims were Chinese nationals. They were identified as Confucius Institute Director Huang Guiping, Ding Mupeng, Chen Sa and Khalid, the Pakistani driver.
The spokesperson added that two others, Wang Yuqing and Hamid, were injured in the incident.
No one has claimed responsibility for the attack but in the past outlawed militant separatist groups in the restive Balochistan province have claimed attacks on Chinese nationals who work in large numbers in different parts of Pakistan particularly Balochistan and Karachi because of the USD 60 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects.
There were conflicting reports about the blast but senior police official Muqqadas Haider said that initial investigations were being held and it could have been a remote controlled explosive device planted inside or near the van.
“The explosion took place at the van’s right side at the (institute’s) entrance. We are still establishing what type of explosion it was,” Haider said, confirming that four people had been killed.
When asked to comment on the nature of the blast, he said it was too early to say anything definitively. Haider said CCTV footage was being analysed and the nature of the blast would only be confirmed after the bomb disposal squad submitted its report.
Urdu language Jang newspaper reported that the van was bringing the foreign nationals who used to teach Chinese at the IBA institute inside the Karachi University from their guesthouse when the blast took place.
The four Rangers personnel, who were behind the van on motorcycles, were also injured. However, their condition is stable.
Videos of the blast-hit van were also posted on social media with flames of fire completely destroying the vehicle as police and paramilitary rangers reached the scene immediately and cordoned off the areas.
Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah directed the Counter-Terrorism Department and SSP East to immediately reach the site of the incident. He also asked the Karachi commissioner to submit a report.
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif also expressed grief over the blast and assured Shah of the Centre’s full help and cooperation in dealing with such incidents.
This is not the first time Chinese nationals have been the target of terror attacks in Karachi, which is Pakistan’s biggest city and economic hub.
In July last year, masked armed men on a motorcycle opened fire on a vehicle carrying two Chinese nationals in an industrial area of Karachi in which one of them was critically wounded.
In the same month, nearly a dozen Chinese engineers were killed when a bus carrying construction workers was “attacked” near a dam project in northwest Pakistan’s mountainous region.
In November 2018, Baloch separatist militants had attacked the Chinese consulate in Karachi but failed to break through the security barrier with three of them killed on the spot.
Thousands of Chinese personnel are working in Pakistan on a host of projects being carried out under the aegis of the CPEC.