ISLAMABAD – A bomb blast destroyed a van carrying Chinese nationals in the southern Pakistani port city of Karachi on Tuesday, killing three of them and a Pakistani man, police said.
The Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) separatist group claimed responsibility for the blast, which took place near a university campus, adding in an email to a Reuters reporter that it was carried out by a female suicide bomber.
The blast was the first major attack on Chinese nationals in Pakistan since last year when a suicide bomber blew up a passenger bus in northern Pakistan, killing 13 people, including nine Chinese.
Tuesday’s attack on citizens of longtime ally China appears to be the first major challenge for newly elected Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, who has expressed grief and sadness over the loss of Chinese nationals.
Karachi Police Chief Ghulam Nabi told reporters the blast killed three foreigners and a local.
“The reports we have indicate that they are Chinese,” he said in comments broadcast live from the crime scene. He said the three Chinese were professors at the University of Karachi.
The BLA attacked two military bases in the southwestern province of Balochistan earlier this year, killing seven soldiers, and it lost 13 of its assailants in an hour-long gunfight with the Pakistani army.
Baloch separatist guerrillas, who say they are fighting for a greater share of regional mining and mineral resources, typically attack gas projects, infrastructure and security forces.
They also attack Chinese projects and sometimes kill Chinese workers despite Pakistani assurances that it is doing all it can to protect the projects.
(Reporting by Asif Shahzad; Editing by Clarence Fernandez, William Maclean)