China has expressed growing concern on regional stability after the end of the US military mission in neighboring Afghanistan.
Chinese leader Xi Jinping also spoke with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Friday, urging his government to find a political solution to the country’s protracted conflict and to “promote the security of Chinese citizens and institutions in Afghanistan”. Mr Xi did not mention the Taliban, which has been steadily expanding the areas he controls, according to a statement describe the call.
Pakistan’s foreign ministry on Wednesday suggested that the explosion that struck the convoy was an accident caused by the ignition of gas cylinders on board one of the vehicles. Other officials were quick to suggest there was evidence of a deliberate attack. The initial reluctance seemed to reflect Pakistan’s sensitivities to terrorist attacks on its territory, especially those targeting a powerful ally.
Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan Nong Rong, who narrowly missed a terrorist attack in April at a hotel in Quetta where his delegation was staying, visited the site of the convoy attack on Thursday.
State media in China showed video of the bus wreckage in the river canyon and debris scattered on a narrow dirt road, including a discarded helmet from the contractor, China Gezhouba Group. The force of the blast burned trees on the steep slope above the road, a reporter with CCTV at the scene said.
The April attack on the hotel was claimed by the Pakistani Taliban, or Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, who said the intended targets were “locals and foreigners” staying at the hotel. Another group, the Baluchistan Liberation Army, named after the country’s southern province, has also claimed attacks on the Chinese.
Cui Jian, deputy project manager at China Gezhouba Group, praised Pakistani workers and security personnel for their emergency response after the bombing. “Pakistani employees are still very united and have given us a lot of help,” he said shown in comments on camera surveillance.
Salman Masood reported from Islamabad; Steven Lee Myers from Seoul. Claire Fu contributed to research.