Five Japanese nationals escaped a suicide attack on their vehicle in Pakistan’s financial capital Karachi on Friday as police shot down a gunman accompanying the bomber, officials said.
Pakistan is battling a surge in militant violence on its territory, including frequent attacks on Chinese migrant workers.
“It was a targeted attack, five Japanese officials were on their way to the export processing zone as per their routine,” Abrar Hussain, a Karachi police spokesperson, told AFP. “The suicide bomber died detonating the bomb, while the second one was killed in crossfire.”
Japan’s top government spokesman Yoshimasa Hayashi said “one Japanese national was confirmed injured”.
Japan has “issued an alert to Japanese nationals living in Pakistan in response to the incident”, he added.
No militant group has claimed responsibility for the rare attack on Japanese nationals, with Pakistani authorities identifying them as engineers working for the management of an export-processing zone in the port city.
One of the two attackers, who followed the Japanese in their vehicle by motorbike, jumped off when the vehicle slowed down and set off explosives tied to his body but failed to strike his target, Pakistani counter-terrorism official Raja Umar Khatab told reporters.
His accomplice then began shooting at the vehicle.
“I think he fired some 15-16 shots,” Khatab said, adding that private security guards with the foreigners and a nearby police patrol returned fire and killed the second attacker.
The attackers had followed the Japanese group’s vehicle for some time, Khatab said, with authorities suspecting they carried out reconnaissance to identify their target and the location for the attack.
Islamist militants and separatist insurgent groups have been involved in other bloody attacks in the South Asian nation, with some of them targeting foreigners, mainly Chinese nationals.
The Japanese involved in Friday’s incident have been moved to a safe place in police custody, police spokesperson Hussain said.
Pakistan’s foreign office said later that the two locals had succumbed to their injuries.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif condemned the attack, praising the timely police action for saving lives.
Pakistan ramped up security for Chinese engineers working on Beijing-linked projects in March after five workers were killed in a suicide attack.
That attack came days after security forces killed at least seven militants as they attempted to storm the offices of Gwadar Port in southwest Pakistan, considered a cornerstone of Chinese investment.
In recent years, Beijing has poured billions of dollars into projects in Pakistan.
However, these have sparked resentment in Balochistan province – where Gwadar is located – and Chinese citizens have frequently come under attack.
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