ISLAMABAD/KARACHI: A blast that killed five people and injured 11 at a luxury hotel in Pakistan’s southwestern city of Quetta, in Balochistan, on Wednesday night was a suicide attack, Pakistan’s Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said on Thursday.
The Serena Hotel Quetta, located next to the Iranian consulate in the city and the provincial parliament building, had been hosting China’s ambassador to the country, Nong Rong, whilst on a visit to Balochistan.
“It was a suicide attack. The bomber detonated his vest from inside (his) car,” Ahmed said, adding that the attacker had yet to be identified. “Around 60 to 80 kilograms of explosive was used in the attack.”
The Chinese ambassador was not at the hotel during the attack, Ahmed continued. “He was staying somewhere else and he is safe.”
Zia Ullah Langau, home minister Balochistan, declined to confirm if the Chinese ambassador was the target of the assault, saying investigations were ongoing. Quetta’s police deputy inspector general, Azhar Akram, added: “Our security was on high alert, and we are assessing all aspects.”
The Chinese Foreign Ministry said on Thursday it “strongly condemns” the bombing.
The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), a militant group fighting to overthrow the government, claimed responsibility for the attack, and said it was carried out “on high officials, including police officers.”
Designated a terrorist group by the US, the TTP has been in disarray in recent years, especially after several of its top leaders were killed by US drone strikes in both Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Mineral rich Balochistan, bordering Iran and Afghanistan, has long been the scene of a low-level insurgency by local nationalists who want a larger share of the region’s resources.
The province, Pakistan’s largest but also its most impoverished, is home to the recently-expanded Gwadar deep water port, a flagship part of China’s $65 billion investment in the Pakistani section of its Belt and Road Initiative, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor Project.