THIS combination of images shows how militants tried to storm the Chinese consulate in Karachi on Friday, but were thwarted in their bid by personnel of police and other law enforcement agencies. (Top left) A video grab shows three militants approaching the consulate; (top right) troops arrive at the mission; (bottom left) devastation caused by the assault; and (bottom right) senior Chinese officials pictured at the consulate after the attack.—AP/PPI
THIS combination of images shows how militants tried to storm the Chinese consulate in Karachi on Friday, but were thwarted in their bid by personnel of police and other law enforcement agencies. (Top left) A video grab shows three militants approaching the consulate; (top right) troops arrive at the mission; (bottom left) devastation caused by the assault; and (bottom right) senior Chinese officials pictured at the consulate after the attack.—AP/PPI

KARACHI: Three heavily armed militants were shot dead in an encounter with law enforcers during a gun-and-grenade attack on the Chinese consulate in the city that also claimed the lives of two police officials and two visa applicants on Friday morning, according to officials and witnesses.

The assault on the consulate, which is situated in the ‘high security zone’ of Clifton’s Block-4, also left a private guard of the foreign mission wounded.

The attackers lobbed at least 10 hand grenades destroying three vehicles and attempted to break open the armoured gate of the consulate with C4 explosives, but were shot dead before they could do so. The banned insurgent group Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) promptly claimed responsibility even when the operation against the attackers was still under way, said a senior official of the Counter-Terrorism Depart­ment (CTD) of Sindh police.

• Two police officials, two visa applicants martyred in gun and grenade assault • BLA claims responsibility • China says any bid to undermine Sino-Pak relationship is doomed to fail

The Chinese embassy in Pakistan strongly condemned the terrorist attack and appreciated the law enforcers for their timely action. “We extend our deep condolences to the two Pakistani policemen martyred in the attack,” the embassy stated.

“Any attempt to undermine China-Pakistan relationship is doomed to fail,” added the official statement issued by the Chinese embassy.

Sharing preliminary investigation report of the deadly ambush, senior CTD officer Raja Umar Khattab, who is investigating the case, said it was around 9:30am when the three heavily armed men came out of a white Suzuki Liana car after parking it near the consulate. As they proceeded towards the consulate with Kalashnikov in their hands, two policemen posted at a checkpoint opened fire on them, the CTD officer said. CCTV footage showed that the attackers became panicky and resorted to a grenade attack. They hurled four hand grenades at the police officials, killing assistant sub-inspector Ashraf Dawood, 48, and constable, Amir Khan, 35, on the spot and leaving a private guard, Mohammed Juman, injured. The martyred policemen belonged to the foreign security cell, which was established by police for the protection of Chinese nationals.

Two of the attackers then moved towards the visa facility near the reception area of the consulate. A private guard immediately shut the main gate while a female official of the consulate closed the door of the visa facility area. In an attempt to break open the armoured gate, the militants resorted to heavy firing, leaving two visa applicants Niaz Muhammad, 55, and his son, Zahir Shah, 25, dead.

They also tried to open the armoured gate with help of C-4 explosives but did not succeed, the CTD official said, adding that law enforcers engaged two of them near the gate and their accomplice outside the consulate. All the three militants were shot dead during the operation, he said.

“We received seven bodies at the hospital,” said Dr Seemin Jamali, executive director of the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre.

According to her, they included the three attackers, two police officials and two civilians. Both policemen died from multiple injuries caused by explosive material while a guard was also hurt in the explosion, she said.

“The three attackers and two civilians sustained gunshot wounds,” Dr Jamali added.

While giving a briefing to Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah at the consulate, where the Chinese consul general and senior officials of police and Rangers were present, Inspector General of Police Dr Syed Kaleem Imam said: “There was evidence about the involvement of banned Baloch Liberation Army in the incident.”

The recently launched ‘biometric verification services’ helped police investigators to identity one of the attackers. “One of them was identified as Abdul Razik, resident of Kharan district of Balochistan,” CTD officer Khattab said, adding that a computerised national identity card and a fake ‘official card’ were recovered from the deceased. He said the fake card was apparently used to avoid checking by security forces and the attackers apparently travelled a long distance before their arrival.

The investigators also seized three Kalashnikovs, C-4 explosive material, seven hand grenades, first aid material and impounded the car, the officer said. The attackers carried chanay (gram) indicating they were prepared for the long haul.

The initial investigation showed that the car owner, a resident of Karachi, had sold it six years ago before shifting to the US. The police record showed that the car had not been used in other crimes in the past.

‘Suicide mission’

Mr Khattab said the militants did not wear ‘suicide jackets’ though it appeared they were on a ‘suicide mission’ as they intended to kill and die. Timely action of the police and other law enforcers ‘foiled’ their bid to enter the consulate, he believed.

“If they had succeeded in entering the consulate, they might have caused more damage,” apprehended the official.

Mr Khattab believed that the banned BLA was involved in the attack and they claimed their responsibility even when the operation was not over.

According to him, the assault bears resemblance to an attack on the Chinese nationals in Balochistan some months ago when the suspects had used an explosive-laden vehicle to target their vehicle but missed it.

Chinese foreign office

Meanwhile, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang at a media briefing said: “The Pakistani side took timely and effective measures to protect the safety of the premises and staff of the Chinese consulate-general in Karachi, and the Pakistani security personnel even lost their lives in the shootout. We highly appreciate the efforts made by Pakistan, mourn for the Pakistani security personnel who were killed in the line of duty and send condolences to the bereaved families and those injured.”

He said, “China highly appreciates the efforts made by Pakistan to safeguard CPEC and ensure the safety of Chinese citizens and institutes in Pakistan. We believe Pakistan will continue taking effective measures to ensure the development of CPEC in a safe and smooth manner.

“China will continue to work with Pakistan to steadfastly promote CPEC and bring greater benefits to the people of the two countries and other countries in this region. China and Pakistan are all-weather strategic cooperative partners, and the practical cooperation across the board between the two sides has brought tangible benefits to the two countries and peoples. Building the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is an important consensus reached by the leaders of the two states, which is of key significance to promoting peace, stability, development and prosperity of the two countries and the region. It has won extensive support from the people of the two countries and is being advanced in an orderly way.”

He said, “China strongly condemns any violent attacks against diplomatic and consular missions and has asked Pakistan to take concrete measures to ensure the safety of Chinese citizens and institutions in Pakistan. In the meantime, we mourn for the Pakistani security personnel who were killed in the line of duty and send condolences to the bereaved families and those injured.”

Published in Dawn, November 24th, 2018