Quetta: At least six people, including three Chinese nationals, were wounded in a suicide attack on a bus in southwestern Pakistan on Saturday, officials said.
An attacker struck the vehicle in the Dalbandin region of Balochistan province, as it transported Chinese engineers working on a mining project in the area.
Local administration and police officials told AFP that three Chinese nationals, two paramilitary soldiers from their security detail, and the bus driver were wounded in the attack.
“The attacker, waiting in a small truck along the route… (detonated) the vehicle when the bus carrying Chinese engineers came close to him,” said Dostain Dashti, a senior police officer in the region, around 340 km (210 miles) southwest of the provincial capital Quetta.
Saifullah Khaitran, a senior local administration official, confirmed the attack, adding that all the injured were in stable condition.
Balochistan is home to a long-running ethnic insurgency aimed at seeking greater control over the province’s abundant mineral resources.
The engineers were working on the Saindak project, Khaitran said, a joint venture between Pakistan and China to extract gold, copper and silver from an area close to the Iranian border.
Muhammad Ibrahim, the driver of the targeted bus, told AFP from his hospital bed that he had averted major loss by slamming the brakes before the bus hit the attacker’s vehicle.
“The whole bus would have burnt if I had not applied the brakes,” he said.
Ethnic Baloch insurgents later claimed responsibility for the attack.
“We targeted this bus which was carrying Chinese engineers,” Jihand Baloch, a spokesperson for Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA), told AFP by phone.
“We attacked them because they are extracting gold from our region, we won’t allow it.”
Bordering Iran and Afghanistan, Balochistan is the largest of Pakistan’s four provinces, and many of its residents have long complained that it does not receive a fair share of its mineral wealth.
Pakistan regularly accuses its eastern neighbour India of funding and arming Baloch separatists, and of targeting development projects in the province.
Beijing has ramped up investment in its South Asian neighbour’s infrastructure as part of an ambitious plan to link its far-western Xinjiang region to the Arabian Sea port of Gwadar in Balochistan.