Islamabad — Eleven militants accused of being involved in carrying out the deadly March suicide attack on Chinese engineers are in custody, according to Pakistani officials.

Following the arrests, Beijing urged Islamabad to continue the investigation. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said Monday that China was attaching great importance to the progress made by Pakistan.

“China supports Pakistan in continuing to get to the full bottom of what happened and hunting down and bringing to justice all the perpetrators,” she said.

The suicide attack killed five Chinese engineers on March 26 along with their Pakistani driver. They were on their way to work at the largest dam at Dasu in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, Pakistani officials said.  A suicide bomber rammed a vehicle filled with explosives into their convoy.

Pakistan blames Afghanistan as a launching pad for militants who attack Pakistan – an accusation the Taliban has repeatedly denied. Islamabad said the suicide bomber who targeted the Chinese engineers was an Afghan national.

“The attack on the Chinese engineers at Shangla (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) is not the only attack. There are several attacks that are carried out by Afghan nationals in Pakistan, their dead bodies were there, and they were identified as Afghans,” Abdullah Khan, an Islamabad-based researcher for the Pakistan Institute of Conflict and Security Studies, told VOA.

Mounting security threats have prompted Pakistani officials to introduce security protocols requiring residential addresses of Chinese nationals and information about their mobility in the country.

Baloch separatist groups and Islamist militants have been targeting Chinese interests and personnel in Pakistan’s resources-rich southwestern Balochistan and northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces. Militants associated with the Baloch separatist groups have claimed past attacks on Chinese nationals and interests.

Earlier this month, the army said its troops were carrying out 100 intelligence-based operations daily, as part of its fight against terrorism.

Militants associated with radical Islamists groups claimed an attack in 2021 targeting a bus carrying workers to the same hydropower project. The attack killed 13 people, including at least nine Chinese nationals. The two Islamist militants accused of the crime were sentenced to death for that attack.

No group has accepted the responsibility for the latest suicide attack on the Chinese engineers in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.  Pakistan announced on May 23 the government will pay $2.58 million to the victims of the March attack.

Pakistan is host to Chinese workers connected to Beijing’s mega projects under the umbrella of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), an initiative with $62 billion in overall Chinese investments. Pakistani officials say the pace on the Chinese projects has slowed in recent years.

Pakistani Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif will be visiting Beijing the first week of June to persuade China to revive CPEC, according to media reports.

This story originated in VOA’s Deewa Service.

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