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Armed separatists storm Chinese Consulate in Pakistan

People comfort a family member of a police officer killed during a shootout at the Chinese Consulate in Karachi, Pakistan, Friday PICTURE: Shakil Adil/AP
Adil Jawad

ARMED separatists have stormed the Chinese Consulate in Pakistan's southern port city of Karachi.

The incident triggered an hour-long shootout during which two police officers, two Pakistani citizens and all three assailants were killed, Pakistani officials said.

The Pakistani civilians killed were a father and a son had come to the consulate to pick up their visas to China, police said.

Elsewhere in Pakistan on Friday, a powerful bomb at an open-air food market in the Orakzai region of the Khyber Pukhtunkhwa province, which borders Afghanistan, killed 35 people and wounded at least 50.

The consulate assault, claimed by a militant group from the southwestern province of Baluchistan, reflected the separatists' attempt to strike at Pakistan's close ties with ally China, which has invested heavily in road and transportation projects in the country, including Baluchistan.

All the Chinese diplomats and staff at the consulate were safe and were not harmed during the attack or the shootout, senior police official Ameer Ahmad Sheikh said.

Prime Minister Imran Khan condemned the attack, describing it as part of a conspiracy against Pakistan and China's economic and strategic co-operation.

Mr Khan lauded the Karachi police and the paramilitary rangers, saying they showed exceptional courage in defending the consulate and that the "nation salutes the martyrs".

He ordered an investigation and vowed that such incidents would never be able to undermine relations with China, which are "mightier than the Himalayas and deeper than the Arabian Sea".

The attackers stormed the consulate shortly after 9am local time. They first opened fire at consulate guards and hurled grenades, then managed to breach the main gate and enter the building, said Mohammad Ashfaq, a local police chief.

Pakistani security forces quickly surrounded the area. Local TV broadcast images showing smoke rising from the building, which also serves as the residence of Chinese diplomats and other staff.

"Because of a quick response of the guards and police, the terrorists could not" reach the diplomats, Mr Sheikh said after the fighting ended. "We have completed the operation, and a search is still under way to trace and capture all suspects."

He added that one of the attackers was wearing a suicide vest and that authorities would try to identify the assailants through fingerprints.

Dr Seemi Jamali, a spokeswoman at the Jinnah Hospital, said the bodies of two police officers were brought to the hospital while one of the consulate guards who was wounded, is under treatment.

Most of the victims in the bomb attack in the town of Klaya were minority Shiite Muslims. Nobody immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.

Orakzai has been the scene of several militant attacks in recent years, mostly by Pakistani Sunni militants.

In its claim of responsibility for the Karachi consulate attack, the Baluch Liberation Army, said it was fighting "Chinese occupation" and released photos of the three attackers.

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