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, one of a myriad of insurgent groups fighting in restive 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 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. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Four people were killed when militants attacked China’s consulate in Karachi in November. The BLA claimed that assault, labeling 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.”
The BLA is just one of the militant outfits operating in Balochistan, Pakistan’s largest and poorest province, which borders Afghanistan and Iran and is rife with ethnic, sectarian and separatist insurgencies. Its residents have long complained that it does not receive a fair share of the profits made from its mineral wealth.
The Pakistani military has been targeting insurgencies in the province since 2004, and has been repeatedly accused by international rights groups of abuses there.
China, one of Pakistan’s closest allies, has poured billions 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. Pakistan sees the project as a “game-changer,” but it presents an enormous challenge in a country plagued by weak institutions, endemic corruption and a range of insurgencies 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 militants have repeatedly attacked construction sites, blowing up numerous gas pipelines and trains, and targeted Chinese workers.