ISLAMABAD: At least 12 people, nine of them Chinese nationals and two Pakistani soldiers, were killed and several others injured in a blast on a bus carrying 41 workers to a hydroelectric project on the Indus in a remote Kohistan region of northern Pakistan on Wednesday.
The explosion occurred at 7.30am when Chinese workers and accompanying Pakistani staff were headed to their work place for an ongoing hydroelectric project in Dasu area of Kohistan district in the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
An emergency statement was posted by the Chinese Embassy in Pakistan in response to the attack, stating: “Recently, personnel of a project of our company in Pakistan have been attacked, causing casualties among our citizens. The Chinese Embassy in Pakistan urgently reminds Chinese citizens, enterprises and projects in Pakistan to pay close attention to the local security situation, strengthen the safety of project personnel , take strict precautions, and do not go out unless necessary.”
Condemning the attack, China’s foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian urged Pakistan to “severely punish the perpetrators“ and “earnestly protect the safety of Chinese nationals, organisations and projects” in the country.
Initially, there were conflicting reports with some officials saying that the bomb was planted in the bus while others describing it as a roadside explosion.
Hours later, the foreign office contradicted reports of an attack, saying that the bus “plunged into a ravine after a mechanical failure resulting in leakage of gas that caused a blast”. The FO put the death toll at 12, including nine Chinese nationals.
Meanwhile Prime Minister Imran Khan’s aide on parliamentary affairs Babar Awan, speaking on the floor of the National Assembly, termed it a “cowardly attack” and said that it would “not divert attention from the special initiatives between Pakistan and its neighbours”.
Chinese engineers along with Pakistani construction workers have been working on the Dasu hydroelectric project and several others in the region where the blast took place.