Armed separatists stormed the Chinese Consulate in Pakistan’s southern port city of Karachi on Friday, triggering an intense hour-long shootout during which two police officers and all three assailants were killed, Pakistani officials said.
The brazen assault, claimed by a militant group from the southwestern province of Baluchistan, reflected the separatists’ attempt to strike at the heart of Pakistan’s close ties with major ally China, which has invested heavily into road and transportation projects in the country, including in Baluchistan.
All the Chinese diplomats and staff at the consulate were safe and were not harmed during the attack or the shootout, senior police official Ameer Ahmad Sheikh said.
Prime Minister Imran Khan condemned the attack, describing it as part of a conspiracy against Pakistan and China’s economic and strategic cooperation. Khan lauded the Karachi police and the paramilitary rangers, saying they showed exceptional courage in defending the consulate and that the “nation salutes the martyrs.”
He ordered an investigation and vowed that such incidents would never be able to undermine relations with China, which are “mightier than the Himalayas and deeper than the Arabian Sea.”
The attackers stormed the consulate shortly after 9 a.m., during business hours. They first opened fire at consulate guards and hurled grenades, then managed to breach the main gate and enter the building, said Mohammad Ashfaq, a local police chief.
Pakistani security forces quickly surrounded the area. Local TV broadcast images showing smoke rising from the building, which also serves as the residence of Chinese diplomats and other staff.
Multiple blasts were heard soon afterward but Sheikh could not say what they were. The shootout lasted for about an hour.
“Because of a quick response of the guards and police, the terrorists could not” reach the diplomats, Sheikh said after the fighting ended. “We have completed the operation, and a search is still underway to trace and capture all suspects.”
He added that one of the attackers was wearing a suicide vest and that authorities would try and identify the assailants through fingerprints.
Dr Seemi Jamali, a spokeswoman at the Jinnah Hospital, said the bodies of two police officers were brought to the hospital morgue while one of the consulate guards who was wounded, is under treatment.