A powerful bomb exploded in the parking area of a luxury hotel in the south-western Pakistani city of Quetta, capital of the province of Balochistan, late on Wednesday night (local time), killing at least four people and wounding at least 11 others, police said.
- China’s ambassador to Pakistan had been staying at the hotel, but it’s not clear if he was the target
- The Pakistan Taliban claimed responsibility hours afterward, but authorities are still investigating who is behind it
- Balochistan is home to Gwadar Port, considered the flagship project of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor under the Belt and Road Initiative
The Chinese ambassador Nong Rong was staying at the hotel but wasn’t there when the bomb went off.
Pakistan’s Interior Minister told local TV channel ARY News:
Mr Rong had earlier in the day met provincial Chief Minister Jam Kamal in the city, according to a tweet from the provincial government spokesman.
Provincial Home Minister Ziaullah Lango told reporters he’d spoken with Mr Rong since the explosion.
“I just met him. He is in high spirits,” adding the envoy would complete his visit to Quetta on Thursday.
The province of Balochistan, of which Quetta is the capital, hosts the newly expanded Gwadar deepwater port that is key to a planned $65 billion investment in China’s Belt and Road Initiative economic corridor.
It was not clear whether the envoy or members of his delegation were a target of the attack, but Chinese nationals and their interests in the region have been attacked before by Taliban militants and nationalist insurgents.
Hours after the attack, the Pakistani Taliban in a statement claimed responsibility, saying it was a suicide attack.
The Pakistani Taliban is a separate insurgent group from the Afghan Taliban.
Authorities are investigating to determine whether it was a suicide attack.
It was unclear who was behind the attack since no-one immediately claimed responsibility.
South-western Balochistan province is the scene of a long-running insurgency by secessionist groups like the Balochistan Liberation Front and the Balochistan Liberation Army.
They have for decades staged attacks to press their demands for independence. The Pakistani Taliban and Islamic State group also have a presence there.
Pakistan’s Interior Minister Mr Ahmed quickly blamed neighbouring India for the hotel bombing, although he provided no evidence to back up the allegation.
He told a Pakistani Geo news channel that Pakistan had only one enemy and it was neighbouring India, which he alleged was behind the bombing.
The hotel is frequented by foreigners as it is the city’s only luxury hotel and is considered safe.