China has expressed growing concern about regional stability after the end of the American military mission in neighboring Afghanistan.
China’s leader, Xi Jinping, also spoke on Friday with Afghanistan’s president, Ashraf Ghani, and urged his government to reach a political solution to the country’s longstanding conflict and to “strengthen the security protection of Chinese citizens and institutions in Afghanistan.” Mr. Xi did not mention the Taliban, which has steadily expanded the areas it controls, according to a statement describing the call.
Pakistan’s foreign ministry on Wednesday suggested that the explosion that struck the convoy was an accident caused by the ignition of gas canisters aboard one of the vehicles. Other officials soon suggested there was evidence of a deliberate attack. The initial reticence appeared to reflect Pakistan’s sensitivities about terrorist attacks on its soil, especially those targeting a powerful ally.
China’s ambassador to Pakistan, Nong Rong, who in April narrowly missed a terrorist attack at a hotel in Quetta where his delegation was staying, visited the scene of the convoy attack on Thursday.
State media in China showed video of the wreckage of the bus in the river ravine and debris scattered across a narrow unpaved road, including a discarded hard hat of the contractor, China Gezhouba Group. The force of the blast burned trees on the steep slope above the road, a reporter with CCTV on the scene said.
The attack on the hotel in April was claimed by the Pakistani Taliban, or Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, which said its intended targets were “locals and foreigners” staying at the hotel. Another group called the Baluchistan Liberation Army, after the country’s southern province, has also claimed attacks targeting the Chinese.
Cui Jian, a deputy manager of the project with China Gezhouba Group, praised Pakistani workers and security personnel for their emergency response after the bombing. “Pakistani personnel are still very united and have given us a lot of help,” he said in remarks shown on CCTV.
Salman Masood reported from Islamabad; Steven Lee Myers from Seoul. Claire Fu contributed research.