Deadly bomb blast hits luxury venue in Pakistan

Smoke billows from the Serena hotel after a bomb blast in Quetta
The attack targeted the Serena hotel, which is often frequented by officials

A bomb explosion at a luxury hotel in the Pakistani city of Quetta has killed at least four people and wounded 12.

The Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan is suspected to have been the target of the attack in the car park of the Serena Hotel, correspondents say. He is understood to be in Quetta, the capital of Balochistan province near the Afghan border, but was not present at the scene at the time. The Pakistani Taliban have claimed the attack, without giving details.

In recent months the group, and other militant organisations, have stepped up attacks in tribal areas near the border with Afghanistan. The vehicle exploded in the hotel’s car park and the fire spread burning down several other vehicles nearby. Footage of the blast was shared on social media in the aftermath, showing the fire raging in the car park. The Serena Hotel is the best known in Quetta, and provides accommodation for government officials and visiting dignitaries.

Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmad told Pakistani broadcaster ARY News TV that “a car that was full of explosives exploded in the hotel” while news agency AFP cited him as saying it was “an act of terrorism”. He added that the Chinese ambassador, Nong Rong, was at a function at the time and so was not at the hotel. Local media are citing officials as saying that all other guests from the hotel were also safe. A Taliban spokesman confirmed to Reuters that “it was a suicide attack in which our suicide bomber used his explosives-filled car in the hotel.”

Flames at smoke during the explosion at the Serena Hotel
Chinese Ambassador Nong Rong was not at the hotel at the time of the explosion

Balochistan’s provincial Home Minister Ziaullah Lango told reporters that Mr Nong was “in high spirits” and that his visit to Quetta would conclude on Thursday. One of Pakistan’s poorest provinces, Balochistan is home to several armed groups, including Islamic extremists and separatists. Militants want independence from the rest of Pakistan, and oppose major Chinese infrastructure projects in the area.

The separatists were also blamed for an attack two years ago on a hotel at Gwadar, a port project funded by China. They accuse the government and China of exploiting Balochistan’s gas and mineral wealth, and strategic position with little benefit to local people.

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