Explosives Found in Pakistan Blast That Killed Chinese Citizens

A Pakistani and Chinese national flag fly next to each other in Pakistan. (Photographer: Asim Hafeez/Bloomberg)

Explosives Found in Pakistan Blast That Killed Chinese Citizens

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Pakistan says it cannot rule out terrorism as the cause of a bus explosion that killed 12 people including nine Chinese citizens, as China called on the South Asian country to protect projects valued at tens of billions of dollars.

After saying an initial probe indicated the blast on Wednesday had been caused by a gas leak, Pakistan “confirmed traces of explosives” had been found, the country’s information minister, Fawad Chaudhry, said in tweet Thursday.

“Terrorism cannot be ruled out,” Chaudhry said hours after Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi asked his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mahmood Qureshi to quickly investigate the cause of the explosion on a bus carrying workers in the northern Kohistan region, according to a statement from China.

Explosives Found in Pakistan Blast That Killed Chinese Citizens

“China is shocked by the serious casualties of Chinese personnel in Pakistan,” Wang was cited as saying in the statement. “If this is a terrorist attack, the perpetrators must be arrested immediately and be severely punished.”

Beijing will send a “working group” to Pakistan and help investigate the blast, foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters during regular briefing on Thursday.

Concerns are mounting about an advance by the Taliban in neighboring Afghanistan, which threatens to disturb peace across the region. At particular risk is the $60 billion in projects in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, or CPEC, a crucial part of President Xi Jinping’s wider Belt and Road Initiative.

Pakistan has recently seen a resurgence in terrorist attacks, complicating Prime Minister Imran Khan‘s efforts to overcome an economic crisis with Chinese help. If terrorists are responsible, it would be the worst attack in Pakistan’s mountainous north since a 2013 shooting by gunmen that killed nine foreign climbers on Nanga Parbat, the second-highest peak in the country.

The South Asian nation is likely to be among the countries most impacted by the U.S. troops withdrawal from Afghanistan as the Taliban continues to capture key districts amid a retreat by the Afghan soldiers. The nation suffered from terrorism for more than a decade after supporting the U.S. following the Sept. 11 attacks.

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