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Pakistani Foreign Minister Says Chinese Workers Targeted By 'Enemies'

Pakistani Foreign Minister Mahmood Qureshi
Pakistani Foreign Minister Mahmood Qureshi

Pakistan’s foreign minister has blamed “enemies of Pakistan” for targeting workers at major Chinese-funded infrastructure projects after two attacks in which Chinese workers were killed or injured.

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi did not elaborate on who the "enemies" were. But it is a term often used by officials to describe militants deemed as members of terrorist groups.

Qureshi said a gun attack that injured two Chinese workers in Karachi on July 28 and an explosion of a bus that killed nine Chinese citizens on July 14 in the northwestern part of the country “cannot demoralize” Pakistan.

An initial police report said one of the Chinese men who was shot in the July 28 attack was a nuclear engineer at the Karachi Nuclear Power Plant.

But a later police report identified both Chinese men merely as "factory workers," omitting the reference to the nuclear plant.

The Karachi nuclear plant has been undergoing an expansion since 2015 under a $10 billion project financed by China -- the biggest energy and infrastructure investor in Pakistan. Two new nuclear reactors there are scheduled to go online in 2021 and 2022.

“Our enemies want to weaken us, but they will not succeed," Qureshi said on July 29. "It was an act of the enemies of Pakistan who don’t want progress of Pakistan. But we have close relations with China -- something that our enemies don’t realize.”

Karachi -- the capital of Pakistan's southern Sindh Province -- also is home to several other major Chinese-funded construction projects.

The attack on the bus took place in Upper Kohistan, a district in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province that borders Afghanistan.

The Pakistani Foreign Ministry initially said the bus had a mechanical failure resulting in "the leakage of gas that caused a blast."

But investigators later concluded the bus driver lost control after a suicide car bomber detonated his explosives nearby.

The bus was carrying 40 Chinese workers to the construction site of a hydroelectric dam when it plunged into a ravine, killing nine Chinese workers and three Pakistanis.

China has invested billions of dollars into Pakistan in recent years. But Chinese-funded projects have triggered discontent among some separatist groups who say local communities benefit little from the projects.