Beijing said nine Chinese workers were among 12 people killed Wednesday by a bomb attack on a bus in northwestern Pakistan and called for severe punishment, but Islamabad blamed the explosion on a “gas leak”.
The bus was carrying around 40 Chinese engineers, surveyors and mechanical staff to a hydropower dam construction site in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
Islamabad is Beijing’s closest regional ally, but the security of Chinese workers has long been of concern in Pakistan.
Large numbers of them are based in the country to supervise and build infrastructure projects.
Pakistan’s foreign ministry in a statement said the bus “plunged into a ravine after a mechanical failure, resulting in leakage of gas that caused a blast”.
Meanwhile, China’s foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian expressed his “shock and condemnation over the bombing”.
He urged Pakistan to “severely punish” those responsible and “earnestly protect” Chinese nationals and projects.
The Chinese embassy in Islamabad also earlier said its nationals had come under “attack”.
Both countries said nine Chinese workers and three Pakistanis had died in the disaster which happened at around 7 am.
Arif Khan Yousafzai, a senior government official in Kohistan district where the blast happened, said around 28 people were also injured.