KARACHI - Security agencies foiled a terrorist attack on the Chinese Consulate here Friday morning, which left seven people dead.
The consulate staff remained unhurt in the attack as the courageous policemen and guards failed the gunmen’s attempts to force their entry into the building in Clifton area.
Two cops deputed at the check post outside the consulate were martyred in the charge that came around 9:15am. A security guard was also critically injured in a grenade explosion.
A civilian and his son who had come for getting visas also died in the assault, claimed by the separatist group Baloch Liberation Army. All three attackers were shot dead by the security personnel in the battle that continued for three hours.
Police and witnesses said the attackers were heavily armed – wearing suicide vests and carrying grenades, besides the automatic weapons.
They parked their car at a distance from the consulate and walked towards the check post outside the consulate building. First they lobbed a grenade at the post and then started heaving firing on the security men deputed there.
Two policemen – ASI Ashraf Daud, 40, and constable Amir Khan, 30 – were maryted in the surprise and swift attack, while security guard Jumman Shah, 40, was critically wounded.
After destroying the small check post at the outside, they headed towards the Visa Section. But the staff in the visa section, upon hearing the gunshots and grenade explosion, had already locked the door from the inside.
Two visa applicants hailing from Quetta – Niaz Muhammad, 56 and his son Muhammad Zahir Shah, 35, who were standing at the visa section at that time – were hit by the bullets and lost their lives.
The security personnel at the building took positions and engaged the attackers – who kept firing bullets at the visa section door relentlessly. But they failed to force their entry.
At the time of the attack around 35 security personnel from the Sindh Police, Rangers and FC were deployed on security duties at the consulate, which is located in an upscale area of country’s commercial hub.
Minutes later heavy contingents of police and Rangers arrived at the scene, cordoned off the area and started operation against the assailants.
All the three attackers were shot down in the operation which took at least three hours to complete and security officials announced complete clearance of the area at 12:15pm.
The dead militants were identified as Raees Baloch, Azal Khan Marri alias Sangat Dada, and Abdul Razzaq. Claiming responsibility of the attack, pro-India militant organisation Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) released pictures of the killed terrorists.
The consulate is located at city’s posh area, Block 4, Clifton, where a number of other consulates are also located. There are also many schools and eateries in the area.
Heavy gunshots and intermittent grenade explosions created panic in the locality and smoke arising from the attack spot was visible even from miles away.
Sindh IGP Dr Syed Kaleem Imam and Ranger top officials also reached at the site after the attack and received reports about the situation.
“The attack was foiled due to timely action by police, Rangers and FC personnel deployed at the consulate,” Sindh Rangers spokesperson told the media. “All diplomatic staff remained safe.”
IGP Dr Imam told media that the terrorists wanted to enter the consulate. “The attackers had hand grenades and sub-machineguns (SMGs) with them. They wanted to get inside through the visa section, he said.
“One of the attackers was neutralised outside while the other two were taken out during the police and Rangers operation,” he added.
The police chief said the two cops who were martyred in the attack played critical role in foiling the attack as their initial retaliation provided the other security staff time to get prepare and respond.
Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah and police high-ups including the IGP lauded the courage of a female police officer, Clifton ASP Suhai Aziz, for leading the operation during an attack. She was among the first security team to respond to the attack and she led the operation from the front along with his team.
Security officials said they had found a pair of suicide jackets, hand grenades, Kalashnikov rifles, magazines and other explosive material. The security officials also recovered food items and medicines from the site which suggested the terrorists had planned to stage a hostage scene at the consulate.
Police also recovered the car used by the militants to reach at the consulate, bearing registration number AKS-973. Police said the vehicle was earlier sold out by a man, who died a couple of years ago.
Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told reporters in Islamabad that "all the terrorists have been eliminated", and that all 21 staff at the consulate during the attack had been taken to a safe location.
Prime Minister Imran Khan, who recently visited China, said Friday's attack would not undermine the Pakistan-China relationship, which he described as "mightier than Himalayas and deeper than Arabian Sea".
China "strongly condemned" the attack and expressed satisfaction at the measures being taken by Pakistan to ensure the safety of Chinese citizens and institutions in the country.
In Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said China would not waver in its latest big project in Pakistan — the CPEC — and expressed confidence that Pakistan could ensure security.
BLA – an old culprit
Friday’s was the latest assault on Chinese nationals in the country, where Beijing has poured billions of dollars into one of the largest projects in its massive Belt and Road programme.
In August this year three Chinese nationals were among six wounded in a suicide attack on a bus transporting Chinese engineers working in Balochistan, in an attack that was also claimed by the BLA.
So far this year, the Baloch Liberation Army has claimed responsibility for 12 attacks against security personnel guarding projects linked to the Chinese Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) as well as to the infrastructure.
The terrorist group receives funds from India for carrying out subversive activities in Pakistan and poses as a nationalist group fighting for the rights of the locals.
It is based in country’s southwestern province of Balochistan, while a number of its leaders are hiding in different countries – most of them in India, which is providing them protection and nurturing them.
"We have been seeing the Chinese as an oppressor, along with Pakistani forces," the spokesman for the terrorist group, Geand Baloch, told a foreign news agency by telephone.
The BLA later emailed a statement to media in which it said the attack was "aimed at making it clear that China's military expansionism on Baloch soil will not be tolerated". It warned the Chinese to leave or "be prepared for continued attacks".
Many of BLA activists and sympathisers are active on social media. They are provided all kind of technological and logistic support by the Indian intelligence agency Research and Analysis Wing to destabilise Pakistan.
After Friday's attack Twitter suspended an account that the BLA had also used to issue its claim.
Terror attack on Chinese Consulate in Karachi foiled