Tuesday May 28, 2024

Terror strikes Bisham as 5 Chinese engineers, Pakistani driver killed in suicide attack

According to Regional Police Officer, Malakand, Mohammad Ali Gandapur, a convoy of 13 vehicles, nine of them carrying Chinese nationals

By Anwar Hussain & Asim Yasin & Mariana Baabar & Muhammad Anis & Mushtaq Yusufzai & Sarfaraz Khan & Sher Ali Khalti & Wajid Ali Syed
March 27, 2024
Security officials inspect the wreckage of a vehicle that plunged into a deep ravine after a suicide attack near Besham city in the Shangla district of KP on March 26, 2024. — AFP
Security officials inspect the wreckage of a vehicle that plunged into a deep ravine after a suicide attack near Besham city in the Shangla district of KP on March 26, 2024. — AFP

BISHAM/ PESHAWAR/ISLAMABAD/LAHORE: Five Chinese nationals and their Pakistani driver were killed in suicide bombing of a bus in Bisham tehsil of Shangla district on Tuesday.

Earlier in the day, a paramilitary soldier was martyred when the security forces foiled an attack on a naval base in Turbat, killing all four terrorists.

According to Regional Police Officer, Malakand, Mohammad Ali Gandapur, a convoy of 13 vehicles, nine of them carrying Chinese nationals and three escorting vehicles of the paramilitary Frontier Corps, were on their way to the Dasu Hydropower Project in upper Kohistan from Islamabad, when a suicide bomber rammed his explosive-laden vehicle into the convoy, targeting a bus carrying Chinese nationals.

Expressing its condolence over the attack, the ISPR said we will ensure that all those involved in aiding terrorism, directly or indirectly, are held accountable and find their due punishment.

DIG Gandapur said that the Shangla police and other relevant authorities, including the rescue workers, were immediately sent to the site of the attack. The police, he said, cordoned off the area and not only ensured the security of the convoy but also took part in the rescue operation. Gandapur rejected some reports of higher casualties and termed them “ baseless. Only five Chinese nationals and their Pakistani driver have died in this unfortunate incident,” he said.Immediately afterwards, the residents of nearby villages also came out in large numbers and facilitated the police and rescue workers. According to official sources, the convoy of Chinese engineers was escorted by their dedicated security team, paramilitary troopers. No group has so far claimed responsibility for the suicide attack on Chinese. The proscribed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has distanced itself from the suicide attack on Chinese nationals. “We are in no way related to the attack on Chinese engineers which took place in Shangla,” said TTP spokesman Mohammad Khurasani.

According to official sources, a China Gezhouba Group Company is engaged in the construction of the dam project in Dasu. This is the second time the Chinese nationals working on the same project have come under attack. At least 13 people, including nine Chinese nationals, were killed in July 2021 when a bus fell into a gorge after an explosion in Upper Kohistan. After the terrorist attack in 2021, the Chinese company stopped all activities at the project for 6/7 months.

In a statement, the Chinese Embassy in Pakistan said: “At around 1pm on 26th March local time, a Chinese company’s bus carrying staff on the Dasu Hydropower Project in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province was hit by terrorist attack. Five Chinese citizens and 1 Pakistani citizen were unfortunately deceased.” The embassy and Consulates General in Pakistan expressed deep condolences to the victims and sincere sympathy to the bereaved families. It further said that they were making every effort to handle the aftermath together with the Pakistani side. The embassy further said that it has launched an emergency plan immediately, requesting the Pakistani side to “thoroughly investigate the attack and severely punish the perpetrators”. All necessary measures were being taken to protect the safety of Chinese citizens, institutions and projects in Pakistan, and to ensure such incidents will not happen again, it added. In addition to this, the embassy reminded Chinese citizens, and enterprises in Pakistan to pay close attention to the security situation, enhance security alerts, strengthen security measures, and make every effort to take safety precautions.

In its reaction, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said the recent incidents of terrorism in Pakistan, notably in Gwadar, Turbat, and Bisham, were dastardly acts aimed at destabilising the internal security situation. “While the first two attempts were successfully thwarted by the armed forces, the latest incident at Bisham led to the loss of six innocent civilians including five Chinese nationals. The whole nation stands in solidarity with our Chinese brothers and unequivocally condemns this cowardly act,” said the ISPR statement.

It further said strategic projects and sensitive sites vital for Pakistan’s economic progress and the well-being of its people were being targeted as a conscious effort to retard our progress and sow discord between Pakistan and its strategic allies and partners, most notably China. “Certain foreign elements are complicit in aiding and abetting terrorism in Pakistan, driven by their vested interests. Despite the veneer of innocence, these elements are being continuously exposed as sponsors of terror,” added the statement.

“Such heinous acts of violence against innocent civilians, foreigners and the armed forces will not deter the resolve of the Pakistani people, its security forces and our partners to root out the menace of terrorism from our country,” it said. The ISPR said Pakistan as the frontline state against terror, remains perhaps the only nation directly confronting the international terrorist enterprise with absolute steadfastness and full resolve of the state. “With the unwavering support of the resilient nation and our iron-clad ally China, we will ensure that all those involved in aiding terrorism, directly or indirectly, are held accountable and find their due comeuppance,” said the statement and concluding that together we will prevail over adversity and evil.

President Asif Ali Zardari strongly condemned the attack and expressed his deep grief and sorrow over the casualties. The president also conveyed his condolences to the bereaved Chinese families and the Government of China, said a press release from the President Secretariat Press Wing. The president reiterated that the enemies of Pakistan would never cause damage to Pak-China friendship. Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif visited the Chinese embassy to convey condolences and assured a swift and high-level probe into the incident. The prime minister, in his interaction with the Chinese Ambassador Jiang Zaidong, sympathised with the bereaved families of the slain Chinese nationals. He assured the Chinese side that the government would hold a high-level and swift probe into the attack and take the culprits and facilitators to the task. Shehbaz also conveyed his condolence message to the Chinese president and premier. “We will not let such nefarious attempts to undermine the Pak-China friendship succeed. The enemies of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor have again tried to interrupt it through such cowardly attempts but the enemy will never succeed in its evil designs,” the prime minister remarked. He also reiterated the country’s resolve to continue fighting against terrorism till its complete eradication.

The Chinese ambassador thanked the prime minister for visiting the embassy and showing personal interest in the investigation of the incident. He also appreciated the prime minister’s determination to maintain Pak-China friendly ties. Foreign Minister Ishaq Dar, Interior Minister Mohsin Naqvi, Information and Broadcasting Minister Attaullah Tarar and Special Assistant to PM Tariq Fatemi accompanied the prime minister. Chief Minister Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Ali Amin Gandapur also condemned the terrorist attack on the Chinese.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) in its reaction, said the Government of Pakistan strongly condemns this heinous act of terrorism. We will take all necessary measures to bring the terrorists and their facilitators to justice. Such dastardly acts cannot dent the resolve of the Pakistani nation to fight against the scourge of terrorism.

It further said the attack was orchestrated by the enemies of Pakistan-China friendship. “We will resolutely act against all such forces and defeat them. The people and government of Pakistan stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our Chinese friends in this difficult time and extend sincere condolences to the families of the Chinese nationals killed in the attack. Pakistan and China are close friends and iron brothers. The life and safety of Chinese nationals in Pakistan is of paramount importance. Pakistan will continue to work with our Chinese brothers in ensuring the safety and security of Chinese nationals, projects and institutions in Pakistan,” the MOFA said.

In a related development, the US State Department condemned the attack on a convoy of Chinese engineers in Pakistan. During the daily media briefing, the State Department spokesperson, Matthew Miller, expressed deep sadness at the loss of life and injuries sustained in the suicide terrorist attack. “We share our heartfelt condolences with those affected by the attack,” the spokesperson said further, “The Pakistan people have suffered greatly at the hands of terrorists.” He noted that Chinese nationals in Pakistan have also been the victims of terrorist attacks and that “no country should suffer the acts of terror.”

Earlier, security forces thwarted an attempt to attack Pakistan Naval Base PNS Siddique in Turbat, killing all four terrorists in an ensuing clearance operation. On the night between Monday and Tuesday, terrorists attempted to attack Pakistan Naval Base, PNS Siddique in Turbat which was foiled due to the swift and effective response by the troops ensuring the safety and security of personnel and assets, the ISPR said in a statement.

It said the security forces in the vicinity were immediately mobilized to support the naval troops. A synergetic and effective response by the armed forces enabled the killing of all four terrorists in the ensuing joint clearance operation. However, during an intense fire exchange, Sepoy Noman Fareed (age 24 years, resident of Muzaffargarh) of Frontier Corps Balochistan, having fought gallantly, embraced Shahadat.

A sanitisation operation is being conducted to eliminate any other terrorists in the area. Pakistan Armed Forces remain committed to eliminating the menace of terrorism from the country at all costs. Namaz-e-Janazah of Shaheed soldier Sepoy Noman Fareed was offered Frontier Corps Headquarters Balochistan which was attended by government and military high-ups.

President Asif Ali Zardari lauded the security forces for their successful operation to foil a terrorist attack at the Naval Base in Turbat. Zardari paid tribute to Sepoy Noman Fareed who embraced martyrdom during the operation.

Jamaat-e-Islami Acting Emir Liaquat Baloch, has strongly condemned the Basham terror incident and expressed deep sorrow and grief over the loss of lives in the suicide attack. The enemies of both countries, Baloch said, are opposed to progress and view Pak-China relations with malice, and in the past, attempts have been made to harm them through such dirty schemes and conspiracies.