Bus carrying nine Chinese engineers and four Pakistanis working on a hydropower project was attacked in July 2021.
Islamabad, Pakistan – A Pakistani anti-terrorism court has awarded death sentences to two men accused of killing 13 people in a suicide attack last year, including nine Chinese engineers working on a hydropower project.
Four Pakistani nationals were also killed in the July 2021 attack when a bus carrying them fell into a ravine following an explosion, which also left more than 20 people injured.
The bus was carrying the workers to the Dasu Hydropower Project in Upper Kohistan, a region in Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
Pakistan’s then foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi had said the attack was carried out by members of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), an armed group also known as the Pakistani Taliban.
Qureshi had also alleged the attack was planned in Afghanistan.
In a press release on Monday, police in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province said the court delivered its verdict last week, issuing the death penalty on 13 counts to Muhammad Hasnain and Muhammed Ayaz.
Addressing a news conference in Abbottabad city on Monday, police officials said four accused men were acquitted in the case due to a lack of evidence against them. They added that four other suspected attackers may have sought refuge in Afghanistan.
In a statement on Monday, Pakistan’s foreign ministry said the verdict demonstrated Pakistan’s “abiding commitment to counterterrorism”.
“We again extend our deepest condolences to the victims’ families and remain committed to the safety and security of Chinese workers, projects and institutions in Pakistan,” the statement said.
Beijing has not yet responded to news of the verdict.
Chinese authorities had condemned the attack, demanding Pakistan catch the culprits and ensure the security of its nationals in the South Asian country.
China has invested more than $60bn in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project as part of its ambitious Belt and Road Initiative across Central and South Asia.
A police official involved in the investigation into last year’s suicide attack told Al Jazeera that more than 450 Chinese engineers were working on the Dasu Hydropower Project.
The last few years have seen an increase in the attacks on Chinese nationals and their installations, mostly in its largest province of Balochistan where a separatist movement has been going on for decades.
In April this year, three Chinese teachers and their Pakistani driver were killed in a suicide attack at a university in Pakistan’s largest city of Karachi. The attack was claimed by Baloch rebels.