Pakistan holds 12 in fatal bombing

Police officers examine the site of suicide bombing at a highway in Shangla, district in the Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, Tuesday, March 26, 2024. A suicide bomber in northwest Pakistan has rammed his explosive-laden car into a vehicle on Tuesday, killing five Chinese nationals and their Pakistani driver, police and government officials said. (AP Photo)
Police officers examine the site of suicide bombing at a highway in Shangla, district in the Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, Tuesday, March 26, 2024. A suicide bomber in northwest Pakistan has rammed his explosive-laden car into a vehicle on Tuesday, killing five Chinese nationals and their Pakistani driver, police and government officials said. (AP Photo)

ISLAMABAD -- Pakistani counterterrorism police in multiple raids arrested at least 12 suspects in connection with last week's suicide bombing that killed five Chinese workers and their Pakistani driver in the volatile northwest, officials said Monday.

Those arrested were not directly involved in the attack, but they helped orchestrate last Tuesday's bombing targeting the Chinese, three police and security officials said. They said some of the suspects had links with Pakistani militants, adding that they were still being questioned and other raids were ongoing.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to media on the record. The officials said some of the suspects had transported an explosive-laden car to Shangla, a district in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, where a suicide bomber rammed it into another vehicle, killing the Chinese workers.

The bodies of the five Chinese nationals were flown overnight from an air base in the garrison city of Rawalpindi to Beijing, Pakistani officials and state media said.

Chinese Ambassador Jiang Zaidong was present at the Noor Khan air base when the bodies were brought there Sunday night. Zaidong conveyed his deep condolences to the families of the victims. A Pakistani Cabinet minister, Salik Hussain, accompanied the bodies to China.

The slain Chinese were traveling to Pakistan's biggest hydropower project, Dasu Dam, where they worked, when their vehicle came under attack.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif visited Dasu Dam on Monday and met with Chinese employees to assure them of security. Sharif said those responsible for the attack would get "exemplary punishment." He said the attack was an attempt to harm ties between Pakistan and China.

Chinese and Pakistani investigators are conducting separate probes into the attack, which drew nationwide condemnation. China has also asked Pakistan to ensure the protection of its nationals working in various parts of Pakistan on projects in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

Authorities say the Chinese bombing victims were heading to the project site amid tight security.

Other Chinese working on CPEC-related projects have faced similar attacks in recent years.

In July 2021, at least 13 people, including nine Chinese nationals, were killed when a suicide bomber detonated explosives in his vehicle near a bus carrying Chinese and Pakistani engineers and laborers, prompting Chinese companies to temporarily suspend work.

Information for this article was contributed by Munir Ahmed of The Associated Press.

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