Pakistani police say they have arrested a would-be suicide bomber who planned to blow herself up near a convoy of Chinese nationals along the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a police statement has said.
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Police arrested the woman in southwestern Balochistan province that borders Afghanistan and Iran, the statement said.
She belongs to the separatist Baloch Liberation Army (BLA), which has started using women fighters as suicide bombers, police said, a new phenomenon for counterterrorism police who are more used to dealing with such attacks by hardline groups.
“The woman wanted to target a convoy of Chinese nationals,” police said, adding the attack was planned along a route of the CPEC.
Police recovered explosives and detonators from the woman and investigated her, revealing her plans to target Chinese nationals. No other evidence was produced to support their accusation.
The Karachi suicide bomber was also a member of the BLA, the police statement said.
Monday’s arrest came hours before Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, in a telephone conversation with his Chinese counterpart Li Keqiang, conveyed his condolences over the April killings and promised maximum security for thousands of Chinese working in Pakistan.
China is a close Pakistan ally, and the CPEC is a $65bn-plus investment in infrastructure in Pakistan, part of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative to seek road and sea trade routes to connect with the rest of the world.
Balochistan province is home to a deep-water port in Gwadar city, which Beijing is developing under the CPEC.
Meanwhile, a roadside bomb exploded near a police van in the southern port city of Karachi on Monday, killing a female passer-by and wounding 13 others, said senior police official Ali Mardan Khoso.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, but suspicion again fell on Baloch rebels.
Baloch separatist fighters say they have been fighting for decades for a greater share in regional mine and mineral resources.
They have attacked gas plants, infrastructure, security forces and Chinese interests, which they say amount to the occupation of their land and resources in the name of development.
Their attacks against Chinese nationals have increased since the fall of the Afghan capital to the Taliban in August last year.
The Taliban denies Pakistan’s accusations that the BLA uses Afghan soil to train its fighters and plan the attacks.
Islamabad also blames its archrival, neighbouring India, for backing the Baloch rebels, a charge New Delhi denies.