Pakistan shares initial findings with China on attack that killed five Chinese nationals

PESHAWAR: Pakistani authorities have shared with China the preliminary findings of an investigation into a deadly attack that killed five Chinese nationals and their Pakistani driver in the country’s volatile northwest, officials said Wednesday.
Authorities were doing DNA testing on the remains of a suicide bomber who rammed his explosives-laden car into a vehicle that was carrying the Chinese engineers and construction workers.
The attack took place in Shangla, a district in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province where thousands of Chinese nationals work on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which includes a multitude of megaprojects such as road construction, power plants and agriculture. The CPEC is a lifeline for Pakistan’s cash-strapped government, currently facing one of its worst economic crises.
The five Chinese nationals were heading Tuesday to the Dasu Dam, the biggest hydropower project in Pakistan, where they worked. Their remains were transported to the capital, Islamabad, local police official Altaf Khan said, adding that the deceased had a police escort when the attack happened.
Khan said DNA testing was necessary as the bomber’s face was beyond recognition. He hoped the results of the DNA tests will help in identifying the bomber.
Pakistani officials said they shared the latest investigation developments with their Chinese counterparts. China is expected to send its own experts to the attack site to conduct an independent investigation while collaborating with Pakistani authorities.
Khan also said they have further expanded a search started a day earlier for the attacker’s possible accomplices.
The UN Security Council in a statement Wednesday condemned “in the strongest terms the heinous and cowardly terrorist attack.” The council “underlined the need to hold perpetrators, organizers, financiers and sponsors of these reprehensible acts of terrorism accountable and bring them to justice.”
No group had claimed responsibility for the attack as of Wednesday, but suspicion was likely to fall on separatists and the breakaway Gul Bahadur faction of the Pakistani Taliban, known as Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan or TTP, and is a separate group, but a close ally of the Afghan Taliban.
The TTP denied being behind the suicide bombing in a statement Wednesday, saying: “We are in no way related to the attack on the Chinese engineers.”
Tuesday’s attack came less than a week after Pakistani security forces killed eight Balochistan Liberation Army separatists who opened fire on a convoy carrying Chinese citizens outside the Chinese-funded Gwadar port in the volatile southwestern Balochistan province.
The Chinese foreign ministry condemned the attack and offered “deep condolences to the deceased” in a statement Wednesday.
The ministry said China has asked “Pakistan to thoroughly investigate the incident as soon as possible, hunt down the perpetrators, and bring them to justice” and added that “any attempt to undermine China-Pakistan cooperation will never succeed.”
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif promised a swift conclusion to the investigation during a visit with the Chinese ambassador, Jiang Zaidong, on Tuesday.
Zaidong, accompanied by Pakistani officials, visited the Dasu Dam Wednesday, according to a statement by Pakistan’s government.
The statement also said Sharif presided over a high-level security meeting, attended by the country’s powerful army chief Gen. Asim Munir. In the meeting, the premier said Tuesday’s attack was “creating mistrust” between Pakistan and China and vowed to bring “the barbaric perpetrators to justice.”
The army chief seconded Sharif’s promise and said they would ensure the safety of all foreigners in the country, “especially Chinese nationals, contributing to the prosperity of Pakistan.”
Chinese laborers working on CPEC-related projects in Pakistan have come under attack in recent years.