Aslam Baloch, a top commander of the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) – one of the various armed groups fighting in Pakistan’s restive southwestern Balochistan province – was suspected the mastermind of the attack, claimed by the BLA.
He was killed on Tuesday along with five associates in a blast in Afghanistan’s southern Kandahar province, the Associated Press news agency reported citing a statement issued by the BLA late on Wednesday. The group has vowed to continue its fight for Baloch independence, it said.
Kandahar police chief Tadin Khan confirmed that the suicide bombing took place in the provincial capital. Another Afghan official who spoke anonymously said Baloch and a second member of the BLA were the targets of the attack.
Pakistan’s Samaa Television reported that Aslam was killed along with a number of his commanders in the suicide attack in Aino Maina.
Last month, three attackers had stormed the Chinese consulate in Karachi, killing four people, including two policemen and as many civilians. Security forces killed the three attackers, who carried explosives.
The BLA had claimed the attack, labelling 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”.
China, one of Pakistan‘s closest allies, has poured billions of dollars 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 province.
Counting the Cost – The China-Pakistan economic corridor (8:12)
Pakistan sees the project as a “gamechanger”, but it presents an enormous challenge in a country plagued by weak institutions, endemic corruption and with a range of armed groups operating in areas hosting 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, fighters have repeatedly attacked construction sites, blowing up numerous gas pipelines and trains and targeted Chinese workers.
Balochistan, on the borders of Afghanistan and Iran, has rich mineral and natural gas reserves but is Pakistan’s poorest province.