CONTENT PREVIEW
Terrorism & Insurgency

Attempted assault on Chinese consulate in Pakistan indicates improving separatist capability to target Chinese interests

25 November 2018
Pakistani Rangers stand in front of the Chinese consulate after an attack in Karachi on 23 November 2018. Source: Asif Hassan/AFP/Getty Images

Key Points

  • The Karachi consulate attack on 23 November indicates growing Baloch separatist intent and capability to carry out one-off, high-profile attacks against secure Chinese assets in Pakistan.
  • The risk of direct Baloch separatist attacks against Chinese infrastructure projects in Balochistan and neighbouring Sindh province is increasing, although successful attacks on secure assets involving a security perimeter breach and major damage are unlikely.
  • The likelihood of suicide attacks targeting restaurants and hotels known to be frequented by Chinese nationals in urban areas of Balochistan and Sindh is growing.

Event

On 23 November, three Baloch separatist fighters carrying small-arms and grenades, and wearing suicide vests, attacked the Chinese consulate in Clifton, an affluent suburb of Karachi in Pakistan's Sindh province.

The attackers reportedly approached a checkpoint outside the consulate in an explosives-rigged vehicle and opened fire on security guards, killing three and wounding three others. All of the attackers were killed in this exchange of fire, and they failed to detonate their vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED), according to local media reports. More than 20 Chinese nationals were present in the consulate, and local police confirmed that no one inside the building was harmed. The Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA), a separatist group operating in neighbouring Balochistan province, claimed the attack through its contacts in international media.

Baloch separatists' increasingly ambitious targets and improving capability

The BLA's claim of responsibility represents a significant expansion of Baloch separatist insurgent targets and evolving tactics. The BLA and other separatist groups have held longstanding objections to Chinese investment in Balochistan, which predate the influx of investment as part of the USD64-billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in 2015. However, Baloch separatists have generally used crude improvised explosive devices (IEDs) to target Chinese nationals, and have exclusively targeted individuals transiting through remote areas of Balochistan.

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