Unites States, China warn their citizens in Pakistan of possible terror attacks, sectarian violence

The United States on Saturday advised its citizens to defer all non-essential travel to Pakistan, saying that foreign and indigenous terrorist groups continue to pose a threat to them throughout the country.

The warning comes in the wake of increasing terrorist violence, including sectarian attacks, in Pakistan.

In a travel warning - issued after a gap of seven months – the State Department warned the US citizens against all non-essential travel to the South Asian country.

The fresh travel warning replaces earlier warning, issued on 22 May.

Pakistan continues to experience significant terrorist violence, including sectarian attacks, the State Department said, adding that targeted attacks against government officials, humanitarian and non-governmental organisation (NGO) employees, tribal elders, and law enforcement personnel were common in the country.

It said foreign and indigenous terrorist groups continue to pose a danger to US citizens throughout Pakistan.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

Terrorists have targeted US diplomats and diplomatic facilities in the past, and evidence suggests they continue to do so, the travel warning said, adding that terrorists and criminal groups have resorted to kidnapping for ransom.

Sectarian violence, the State Department said, remains a serious threat throughout the country, and the Pakistani government continues to enforce blasphemy laws.

Religious minority communities have been victims of targeted killings and accusations of blasphemy, it added.

The State Department said insurgent and terrorist groups conducted numerous suicide bombings, hand grenade attacks, and ambushes on Pakistani security forces and civilians over the past six months in Balochistan.

A suicide bomber in Quetta targeted senior police officers near Shuhada Chowk, killing 14 people and wounding 30. In Chaman, another suicide bomber attacked a police
convoy, killing three police officials and injuring 20 others, it said while giving details of terrorist attacks in Pakistan's restive Balochistan and FATA.

Two hand grenade attacks in Gwadar and Mastung injured 41 people. In Quetta, a suicide bomber killed 21 people and wounded 45 in an attack on the Pishin bus terminal, the State Department said.

Similarly, a suicide bomber in Jhal Magsi attacked worshippers at the Sufi shrine of Pir Rakhyal Shah in the Fatehpur area, killing 19 and injuring 30. Another suicide
bomber in Quetta attacked a police convoy on the Sibbi Road in the Saryab mill area, killing seven and wounding 23, it said.

In Punjab province, three suicide bombings targeting police and military officials in Lahore killed at least 47 and injured more than 100 others.

In Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province and the Federally Administered Tribal areas (FATA), there have been numerous recent attacks by insurgent and terrorist groups targeting government officials, NGO and aid workers, religious minorities, and civilians. Also 148 occurrences of small arms fire, over 67 improvised explosive devices (IED) explosions, 28 known assassination attempts, and 17 kidnappings were reported, the State Department said.

Assassination and kidnapping attempts are common throughout these areas, it added.

The Department said terrorist organisations operating in the area have not discriminated between government officials and civilians.

Since May 2017, the following significant attacks have occurred: in Parachinar, an IED targeting the Tori Market killed 67 civilians and injured 75; in Jamrud, an IED attack targeting peace committee workers killed at least five civilians; in Charsadda, at least five IEDs exploded, injuring 14 people; IEDs targeting Peshawar Hospital injured five people; and in Peshawar the detonation of a "toy bomb" killed one child and injured six persons, it said.

Similarly China on Friday also warned its citizens in Pakistan to be on alert after receiving intelligence reports about possible attacks targeting Chinese.

The Chinese Embassy in Islamabad said on its website on Friday it had information about a "series of terror attacks" planned against Chinese organisations and personnel, without giving details. It urged its citizens to stay inside and avoid crowded places.

China's exposure to militant attacks has risen in recent years as its overseas footprint expands. The Islamic State group said in June it kidnapped and killed two Chinese teachers in Quetta.

China has invested heavily in Pakistan, where thousands of Chinese workers are employed in $60 billion worth of infrastructure projects under Beijing's "Belt and Road" initiative. The port and road-building projects in Baluchistan province have come under frequent insurgent attacks.

For decades, a small number of Uighurs, an ethnic minority in western China that has chafed under Beijing's rule, have sought refuge with the Taliban in Afghanistan and
Pakistan.

Pakistan's government has promised Beijing that it will deploy troops to secure the economic corridor being built and root out anti-China militants in its northwestern tribal areas.

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Updated Date: Dec 10, 2017 10:23:00 IST

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