Sunday , May 19 2024

5 Japanese nationals narrowly survive Karachi suicide attack


By SJA Jafri

KARACHI: Five (5) Japanese nationals in Pakistan escaped unhurt on Friday from a suicide bomb attack on their vehicle as police shot down a gunman accompanying the bomber, a police spokesperson said, but two bystanders were among the three injured.

Islamist militants seeking to overthrow the government and set up their own strict brand of Islamic rule have launched some of Pakistan’s bloodiest attacks during the last few years, with some separatist groups targeting foreigners, including Chinese.

No militant group immediately claimed responsibility for the rare attack on Japanese nationals, however, with Pakistani authorities identifying them as engineers working for the management of an export processing zone in the port city.

The Japanese have been moved to a safe place in police custody, the spokesperson, Abrar Hussain Baloch, said, although the bystanders and a guard with the visitors suffered injuries.

“The police mobile unit, which was nearby, responded to the attackers quickly and the security guards of the foreign guests responded immediately,” Baloch added.

In Tokyo, Japan’s chief cabinet secretary, Yoshimasa Hayashi, told a press conference that one Japanese national was confirmed to have been injured and the government was checking details, having flagged the risk to other citizens in Pakistan.

One of the two motorcycle-borne attackers set off explosives tied to his body as soon as the vehicle slowed, Pakistani counter-terrorism official Raja Umar Khatab told reporters, but failed to strike his target.

That prompted his accomplice to start shooting at the vehicle.

“I think he fired some 15 or 16 shots,” Khatab said, adding that private security guards with the foreigners and a nearby police patrol returned fire and killed the second attacker.

The men had followed the Japanese group’s vehicle for some time before the attack, he said, with authorities suspecting they carried out reconnaissance to identify the target and location of the attack.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif condemned the attack, praising the timely police action for saving lives.

The violence came a day after militants ambushed and killed six customs officers in the turbulent Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

Officials said Thursday that a team from the Directorate of Intelligence and Investigation Customs was conducting an “intelligence-based” operation in the militancy-hit Dera Ismail Khan district when their vehicle came under attack.

The shooting resulted in the deaths of customs officers who were working to counter militant networks smuggling weapons into the district and surrounding areas of the province, which borders Afghanistan.

Last month, a suicide bomber rammed his explosives-packed car into a convoy of Chinese engineers and workers in the province’s Kohistan district. The attack killed five Chinese nationals and their Pakistani driver.

The foreigners were working on the Chinese-funded multibillion-dollar Dasu Dam on the Indus River, Pakistan’s biggest hydropower project.

Islamabad says that fugitive leaders and fighters of anti-Pakistan militant groups have found refuge in Afghanistan and intensified cross-border attacks since the Islamist Taliban regained control of the neighboring country.

The Taliban deny the allegations, claiming they are not allowing anyone to use Afghan soil to threaten neighboring countries, including Pakistan.

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