Militants attack Pakistani military convoy escorting Chinese nationals

By Gul Yousafzai

QUETTA, Pakistan (Reuters) -Militants attacked a Pakistani military convoy near the strategic southwestern port of Gwadar on Sunday as it was escorting a delegation of Chinese nationals to a construction project, the military and China’s consulate in Karachi said.

China has invested heavily under its Belt and Road Initiative in the mineral-rich province of Balochistan, including developing the deepwater port of Gwadar, despite a decades-long separatist insurgency in the area.

“Terrorists used small arms and hand grenades during the activity,” the military’s public relations wing said in a statement, adding that two militants were killed and no harm was caused to any military personnel or civilians.

China’s consulate in the southern city of Karachi condemned the attack, adding in a statement that there were no casualties among its citizens on the convoy.

A Pakistani security official, speaking on condition of anonymity, also said two attackers died in a gun battle, without any injuries in the convoy. The attack targeted Chinese passengers travelling from Gwadar airport towards a construction site in the port area, the source said.

Separatist group the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) claimed the attack, saying it inflicted multiple casualties. But no other reports from the area confirmed such casualties.

The BLA and other militant groups say Pakistan exploits the province’s natural resources and have targeted Chinese interests in recent years for supporting that.

Gwadar is located near the Strait of Hormuz, a crucial oil shipping route in the Arabian Sea, and is being developed under Chinese management.

(Additional reporting by Ethan Wang in Beijing; Writing by Gibran Peshimam; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)