A TRUCK transports damaged vehicles from Serena Hotel, a day after a deadly suicide blast struck the building, on Thursday.—AFP
A TRUCK transports damaged vehicles from Serena Hotel, a day after a deadly suicide blast struck the building, on Thursday.—AFP

ISLAMABAD: As Pakistan vowed on Thursday to use all means to hunt and bring to justice the perpetrators of the Quetta suicide attack, which possibly targeted the Chinese envoy, Beijing expressed confidence in Islamabad’s ability to punish the terrorists.

Foreign Office spokesman Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri, speaking at the weekly media briefing, said: “Pakistan will pursue the perpetrators of this heinous act and bring them to justice. … Thorough investigations, from all angles, are being carried out.”

Five people lost their lives in a vehicle-borne suicide attack in the parking lot of Serena Hotel in Quetta on Wednesday night.

Chinese Ambassador Nong Rong and members of a delegation from China were staying at the hotel, but were out for a dinner at the time of the attack. They were reportedly returning to the hotel and were very close when the explosion occurred.

China expresses confidence in Islamabad’s ability to punish terrorists responsible for Quetta attack

This led to the speculation that the Chinese envoy could have been the target of the attackers. The attack was claimed by the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which has always been opposed to the Chinese presence and carried out several attacks against the Chinese in Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin at the daily press conference in Beijing, while condemning the terrorist attack, said Ambassador Rong was leading a Chinese delegation, but they were not in the hotel when the attack happened.

Mr Chaudhri said: “All Chinese nationals are safe and the concerned authorities are taking all necessary measures to ensure the safety and security of Chinese diplomats and nationals.”

Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, speaking at another press conference, said the attack was the handiwork of the forces inimical to the country’s peace and development. Through this act, he said, the attackers wanted to destabilise the country.

The government has put all security agencies working in Balochistan, including the Frontier Corps, Rangers and Coastal Guards, on high alert, Mr Ahmed said.

The interior minister said a probe had been initiated into the incident, which was being overseen by the provincial chief secretary.

A forensic investigation, he said, was being conducted into the attack and the terrorists were yet to be identified.

The Bomb Disposal Squad estimates that the car used in the blast had been packed with 80 to 90 kilograms of C-4 explosive and ball/bearings.

Parts of the body of suicide bomber have been recovered from the site and shifted to hospital for identification, but the police say the body has been burnt beyond recognition.

The interior minister said Pakistan had already defeated terrorists backed by “foreign forces” and would again thwart the evil designs and conspiracies being hatched in India. He, however, stayed short of directly accusing India of masterminding the attack.

Pakistan, however, accuses India of supporting the TTP and running a cell under its intelligence agency RAW for undermining the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

Meanwhile, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wenbin said: “The relevant departments in Pakistan are making full effort to investigate the incident. We believe that the Pakistani side will find out the truth at an early date and bring the perpetrators to justice.”

China, Wenbin said, would continue to firmly support “Pakistan’s counter-terrorism efforts, jointly maintain and promote regional security and stability, and ensure the safety of Chinese personnel and institutions in Pakistan.”

With additional reporting by Saleem Shahid from Quetta

Published in Dawn, April 23rd, 2021

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