Gunmen attempted to raid the Chinese consulate in Pakistan’s port city of Karachi. The attack has claimed four victims, two of them being uniformed police officers. Later, police also gunned down the three attackers.

The incident happened at around 9:30 am (local time) when the armed attackers tried to enter the consulate in the Clifton area of Karachi. They were stopped by the guards at one of the checkpoints. Eyewitnesses described hearing gunshots and seeing a blast. TV channels have also broadcast an image of smoke emanating out of the building. Following the Karachi attack, police have cordoned off the area and ramped up security across all consulates in the country.

Chinese officials have confirmed that all their staff inside the consulate are safe. They have also requested extra effort to safeguard the Chinese citizens living in Pakistan. “China strongly condemns any terrorist attacks targeting diplomats and send its condolences to the deceased guards and their families,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan has condemned the Karachi attack. He issued a statement saying the the attack is an attempt to ruin the strategic and economic cooperation between China and Pakistan. He has called for a thorough investigation.

A burning vehicle at the site of the Karachi attack

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What caused the Karachi attack?

Baloch Liberation Army, a separatist militant group has claimed responsibility for the attack on the Chinese consulate. The group shared a picture of three unidentified men on Twitter with the following caption: “Karachi: Fidayeen of BLA attacked the Chinese embassy in Karachi.”

“Fidayeen” is an Arabic term that loosely translates as “one who sacrifices himself.”

“We have been seeing the Chinese as an oppressor, along with Pakistani forces,” a spokesman for the group told in a statement. The group has been critical about the Chinese investment projects in western Pakistan. Chinese workers in Balochistan have been the target of previous militant attacks as well.

It is being speculated that the attack was carried out to undermine an ongoing Chinese project in Balochistan. The ambitious endeavour attempts to connect the western Xinjiang province in China with the Arabian Sea port of Gwadar in Balochistan, as part of the One Belt, One Road initiative.

Despite being replete with gas and oil reserves, Balochistan remains largely impoverished and sparsely populated. Baloch nationalists have been criticizing the Pakistani government for exploiting the province and denying its due rights.

In a separate incident on the same day, at least 25 people died in a bomb blast in north-western Pakistan. According to the police, a suicide bomber on a motorbike drove into a busy market area. The attacked happened in a Shia neighbourhood in Orakzai district of Pakistan.