A Pakistani separatist wanted over an attack on the Chinese consulate in Karachi in November has been killed in a suicide blast in Afghanistan, his group has confirmed.
Aslam Baloch was believed to be one of the leaders of the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA), one of a myriad of armed groups fighting in Pakistan’s restive southwestern Balochistan province.
He was killed on Tuesday along with four others in a blast in Afghanistan’s southern Kandahar province, the group said in a statement issued late on Wednesday in which they vowed to continue their fight for Baloch independence.
Kandahar police chief Tadin Khan confirmed a suicide bombing had taken place in the provincial capital, killing two civilians. Another Afghan official who spoke anonymously said Baloch and a second member of the BLA were the targets of the attack.
Pakistan’s Samaa Television reported that Aslam was killed along with a number of his commanders in a suicide attack in Aino Maina in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, across the border from Balochistan.
Last month, three attackers stormed the Chinese consulate in Karachi, killing four people. Security forces killed the three attackers who were carrying explosives.
The BLA claimed that assault, labelling Beijing an “oppressor” and “making it clear that China’s military expansionism on Baloch soil will not be tolerated”.
It had warned the Chinese to leave or “be prepared for continued attacks”.
China, one of Pakistan’s closest allies, has poured billions of dollars into the South Asian country in recent years as part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a massive infrastructure project that seeks to connect its western province of Xinjiang with the Arabian Sea port of Gwadar in Balochistan.
Counting the Cost – The China-Pakistan economic corridor
Pakistan sees the project as a “gamechanger”, but it presents an enormous challenge in a country plagued by weak institutions, endemic corruption and with a range of armed groups operating in areas slated to host the corridor.
The subject of economic dividends from CPEC is extremely sensitive in some of those areas – particularly in Balochistan.
Since the beginning of the project fighters have repeatedly attacked construction sites, blowing up numerous gas pipelines and trains, and targeted Chinese workers.
Balochistan, on the borders of Afghanistan and Iran, has rich mineral and natural gas reserves but is Pakistan’s poorest province.