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12 detained over bombing of Chinese workers

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BEIJING/ PESHAWAR: Police detained more than 12 people, including Afghan nationals, in connection with a suicide bombing that killed five Chinese engineers and their driver last week, a senior law enforcement source said on Tuesday.

The engineers and their Pakistani driver were travelling towards the Dasu hydroelectric dam under construction by a Chinese firm in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa when a bomber rammed their vehicle and detonated.

“More than a dozen suspected individuals have been taken into custody,” the police source told AFP on condition of anonymity. “Among the apprehended suspects are some Afghan nationals.”

Islamabad has blamed a recent uptick in attacks in Pakistan on Afghanistan, accusing the Taliban government there of failing to rein in militants sympathetic to their cause. The Taliban government in Kabul has repeatedly denied giving safe haven to militants.

However, the senior police source said “initial evidence suggests the involvement” of Pakistan’s domestic chapter of the Taliban, which analysts say has close ties to the Afghan Taliban. The group — known as Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) — publicly denied involvement in the attack last Tuesday.

The bombing sparked a flurry of diplomatic activity from Islamabad, eager to protect the billion-dollar investments Beijing has pledged under its “Belt and Road” initiative.

Meanwhile, China on Tuesday said it firmly supported Pakistan’s counterterrorism measures as the South Asian nation encountered a surge in attacks.

“China firmly supports Pakistan’s counterterrorism efforts, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said during his regular briefing.

The spokesperson said China would provide all necessary assistance to investigate the Dasu terrorist attack.

The spokesperson said, “Since the attack, China has been in close communication with Pakistan,” and added, “We hope that Pakistan will get to the bottom of what happened with utmost resolve and efforts.”

Wenbin remarked that China firmly safeguarded the safety and security of Chinese nationals, projects and institutions overseas. “China will provide necessary assistance to Pakistan in the investigation of the case,” he said and added, “The terrorists will pay the price.”

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif visited Chinese workers at the Dasu construction site on Monday and said Pakistan “will not leave any stone unturned” to guarantee their safety.

“I will not rest until we have put in place the best possible security measures,” he told workers. “I can assure you that our strong hands will catch the culprits very soon.”