At least four people have been killed and a dozen others wounded when a powerful car bomb exploded at a top hotel hosting the Chinese ambassador in south-western Pakistan.
The blast took place in the car park of the Serena – a luxury hotel chain throughout Pakistan – in the city of Quetta, the capital of Balochistan province where the military has been fighting a decade-long low level insurgency.
“At least four people have been killed and 12 others were injured,” Pakistan’s interior minister, Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, told AFP, describing it as “an act of terrorism”.
“A Chinese delegation of around four people led by the ambassador was lodging in the hotel.
“The ambassador was out for a meeting when the explosion took place,” he added.
The Pakistan Taliban later claimed responsibility for the bombing which they said was a suicide attack.
Chinese ambassador Nong Rong had earlier in the day met provincial chief minister Jam Kamal Khan in the city, according to a tweet from the provincial government spokesman, Liaquat Shahwani.
Home minister Ziaullah Lango told reporters: “I just met him. He is in high spirits,” adding the envoy would complete his visit to Quetta on Thursday. There was no immediate comment from China’s embassy in Pakistan.
Balochistan is poor despite its natural resources – a source of great anger to residents who complain they do not receive a fair share of the gas and mineral wealth.
Resentment has been fuelled by billions of dollars of Chinese money flowing into the region through the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) – a key part of China’s belt and road initiative – which locals say gave them little benefit as most new jobs went to outsiders.
Azhar Ikram, a senior police official in the city, confirmed the death toll and said that the Chinese ambassador was staying at the hotel, but was not present at the time of the blast.
“Initial probe suggests it was an IED planted in one of the vehicles,” Ikram said.
Senior police official Azhar Akram said officers were trying to determine whether the bomb was planted in a vehicle that was parked in the hotel’s parking lot. He provided no further details, saying police were still investigating. Other security officials said the bomb exploded minutes after a car entered the parking lot, and authorities were investigating to determine whether it was a suicide attack.
In 2019 gunmen stormed a luxury hotel overlooking a flagship CPEC project – the deep-water seaport in Gwadar that gives China strategic access to the Arabian Sea – killing at least eight people.
And in June, Baloch insurgents targeted the Pakistan Stock Exchange, which is partly owned by Chinese companies.
All the attacks were claimed by the Balochistan Liberation Army.
It comes after more than a week of violent anti-France protests led by an extremist party based in the eastern city of Lahore.