By Gul Yousafzai
QUETTA, Pakistan (Reuters) – A suicide bomber attacked a bus ferrying Chinese mining workers in Pakistan’s restive Baluchistan province on Saturday, a local official said, in an assault claimed by Baloch separatists.
The bomber died in the attack and the Chinese workers suffered minor wounds, the official said. Militant group Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) claimed responsibility for the attack in Dalbandin, about 340 km (210 miles) south-west of the provincial capital, Quetta.
Baluchistan, which has rich mineral and natural gas reserves but remains Pakistan’s poorest province, is the site of a long-running rebellion by separatists who argue the state is taking over their lands and have targeted Chinese-funded projects.
“A suicide bomber used an explosives laden pick-up for the attack. He exploded the (vehicle) when the coach reached the site,” said Saifullah Khaterin, deputy commissioner for Chagai district in southwestern Baluchistan province, where the attack took place.
The blast shattered the glass windows in the bus and damaged the front of the vehicle, according to images from the scene seen by Reuters.
The Chinese workers targeted in this attack worked on the Saindak mining project, which is controlled by Chinese state-owned Metallurgical Corporation of China (MCC), according to a senior official who works for MCC. Eighteen Chinese workers were on the bus when the attack happened.
Tens of thousands of Chinese workers are living in Pakistan and most work on infrastructure projects that fall under the Beijing-funded $57 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a key leg in China’s vast Belt and Road initiative to build transport and economic links across Asia and beyond.
The copper and gold Saindak project is Pakistan’s biggest functioning mine, but not part of CPEC.
Chinese officials have urged Pakistan to improve security in Baluchistan, which houses a vital sea port being built by China in the coastal city of Gwadar, and has a key road artery passing through it as part of the CPEC transport corridor.
BLA released a video of the attack, including a message from the alleged suicide bomber who carried out the bombing.
(Reporting by Gul Yousafazai; Writing by Drazen Jorgic; Editing by Kim Coghill and Neil Fullick)