On Wednesday April 21st, a deadly suicide blast took place inside the parking area of Serena Hotel in Quetta, Pakistan. The hotel is part of a five-star chain popular with diplomats and aid agencies and was also hosting the Chinese Ambassador in southwest Pakistan on the day of the blast.
I am deeply saddened by the loss of innocent lives in the condemnable & cowardly terrorist attack in Quetta yesterday. Our nation has made great sacrifices in defeating terrorism & we will not to allow this scourge to rise again. We remain alert to all internal & external threats
— Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) April 22, 2021
Wang Wenbin, China's foreign ministry spokesperson, described the blast as a "terrorist attack" and said that the Chinese delegation was not present at the time of the blast. Gu Wenliang, agriculture commissioner at China's embassy in Pakistan, said that the bomb detonated 10 minutes before their expected return.
Since August 2018, there have been several terrorist attacks against Chinese people in Pakistan. These include the 2018 attack against the Chinese Consulate-General in Karachi and the 2020 attack against the Pakistan Stock Exchange, both by the Balochistan Liberation Army. Chinese companies partly own the Pakistan Stock Exchange.
However, a spokesperson for Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) said in a statement, "The suicide bomber hit the security officials exactly as it was planned," hinting at the target not being the Chinese Ambassador.
The TTP has been unleashing deadly attacks on urban centers across Pakistan for years. They also provided shelter to global extremists groups such as Al-Qaeda in their bases along the Afghan border.
However, a massive military offensive launched in 2014 destroyed the group's command and control structure, leading to a dramatic decrease in insurgent violence throughout Pakistan.
Imran Khan, Prime Minister of Pakistan, tweeted, "we will not allow this scourge to rise again."
The officials counted the death toll up to five, and the police said it came from an improvised explosive device. Among the ones killed were security officials and hotel staff.
"I was walking through the car park when I heard a sudden loud sound, and the earth shook under my feet," said Khuda Baksh, a guard at the hotel, "Everyone was running for their lives before I lost consciousness."
Although Pakistan has been fighting extremism in a decade-long fight, analysts warn that it has yet to tackle the root causes of extremism. Billions of dollars of Chinese money flowing into the region through the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a crucial part of China's Belt and Road Initiative, has fuelled resentment among the locals. They say it gives them little benefits as most jobs went to outsiders.
The Serena Hotel attack also comes after the anti-blasphemy Tehreek-i-Labbaik (TLP) held a week of violent protests calling for the French Ambassador's expulsion. Although not linked ideologically, the TTP has published statements supporting the group's protests.
"These (protests) were mainly due to the government's breach of promises made to the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan and arrest of its leader Maulana Saad Rizvi. Last year, the government reached an agreement with [TLP] Chief Maulana Saad Rizvi on a number of issues, including deporting the French Ambassador and banning French products. However, the government has now withdrawn for its promise for infidel purposes," says the letter from the TTP in Urdu.