Three gunmen and four people were killed in an hour-long shootout near the Chinese consulate in southern port city of Karachi. Hours later, bombing in Orakzai tribal region of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province killed at least 35 people and wounded dozens.

Pakistani security personnel move in the compound of Chinese Consulate in Karachi, Pakistan, on November 23, 2018.
Pakistani security personnel move in the compound of Chinese Consulate in Karachi, Pakistan, on November 23, 2018. (AP)

Pakistani police say a powerful bomb at an open-air food market in the country's northwest has killed at least 35 people, an attack just hours after armed separatists stormed the Chinese Consulate in the southern port city of Karachi.

Three gunmen stormed the Chinese Consulate, triggering an intense, hour-long shootout during which two police officers and two civilians and all the assailants were killed, officials said.

All the Chinese diplomats and staff at the consulate were safe and were not harmed during the assault or the shootout, said senior police official Ameer Ahmad Sheikh.

TRT World's Reagan Des Vignes reports.

The Balochistan Liberation Army, a separatist group based in the southwestern province of Balochistan, claimed responsibility for the attack and released photos of the three attackers. 

Karachi, the capital of neighbouring Sindh province, has a militant presence, including Baloch separatists.

TRT World's Kamran Yousaf brings more from the capital, Islamabad.

PM Khan orders inquiry

Prime Minister Imran Khan ordered inquiry into the attack, calling it it "conspiracy" against China-Pakistan strategic cooperation

The attackers stormed the consulate shortly after 0400 GMT (9 am local time), during business hours. They first opened fire at consulate guards and then managed to breach the main gate and enter the building, said Mohammad Ashfaq, a local police chief.

Pakistani security forces quickly surrounded the area. Local TV broadcast images showing smoke rising from the building, which also serves as the residence of Chinese diplomats and other staff.

Situation under control

Multiple blasts were heard soon afterward but Sheikh could not say what they were. After the shootout, which lasted for about an hour, the situation was brought under control.

"Because of a quick response of the guards and police, the terrorists could not" reach the Chinese diplomats, Sheikh said after the fighting ended. "We have completed the operation, and a search is still underway to trace and capture all suspects."

Sheikh said one of the attackers was wearing a suicide vest. Authorities will try and identify the assailants through fingerprints.

Dr Seemi Jamali, a spokeswoman at the Jinnah Hospital, said the bodies of two police officers were brought to the hospital morgue while one of the consulate guards who was wounded, is under treatment.

China is a longtime ally and has invested heavily in transport projects in Pakistan. The two countries have strengthened ties in recent years and China is currently building a network of roads and power plants under a project known as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, or CPEC.

Orakzai attack

The market attack took place in the town of Klaya, in the Orakzai region of the Khyber Pukhtunkhwa province, which borders Afghanistan, local police official Tahir Ali said.

He said most of the victims were Shia Muslims. Dozens wounded in the attack, some critically, triggering fears the death toll could rise further,

Ali says the tragedy has prompted local authorities to declare an emergency at the region's hospitals to handle the situation.

Orakzai has been the scene of militant attacks in recent years, mostly claimed by Pakistani Sunni militants.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies