Chinese embassy attacked in Bishkek
Bishkek. Source: Wikimedia
Kyrgyzstan says a suicide car bomber struck the Chinese Embassy in Bishkek on Tuesday, killing himself and wounding three Kyrgyz staff.
President Almazbek Atambaev ordered the government to step up security measures after what is being called a terrorist attack, which is rare in a country which has experienced few extremist attacks despite growing official fears about Islamic extremism.
No group has claimed responsibility. Deputy Prime Minister Zhenish Razakov said the attacker crashed his car through the embassy’s gates and detonated his bomb. The blast shook homes and shattered windows in the area.
An anti-Chinese militant group is being blamed for the attack. Ethnic Uyghurs are a Turkic-language speaking, mainly Muslim people who predominantly inhabit western China’s Xinjiang region as a persecuted minority. In 2014, Kyrgyz border guards said they had killed 11 suspected members of a Uyghur group who had illegally crossed the Chinese-Kyrgyz frontier.
Beijing condemned the “extreme and violent attack” and called on the Kyrgyz government to “get to the bottom of the incident”, a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman told the media.
Kyrgyz Foreign Minister Erlan Abdyldaev has reportedly told his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, that he would ensure the safety of Chinese diplomats. The US Embassy appeared to overreact by warning its citizens in the central Asian state to “shelter in place” until more details emerged.
The health ministry said the three people wounded by the explosion were Kyrgyz staff at the embassy and they were being treated with what appeared to be shrapnel injuries. The embassy compound is in Bishkek’s southern suburbs near the US Embassy and other missions. The attack comes ahead of a series of high-profile public events.
Kyrgyzstan marks the 25th anniversary of its independence declaration from the Soviet Union on August 31, it is hosting the World Nomad Games from September 3 to 8 and the Commonwealth of Independent States on September 16.
Chinese diplomats have occasionally been targeted.
Two visiting Chinese diplomats were shot dead and another was wounded in Bishkek in May 2000 and a Chinese consul and his driver were killed there in 2002. The government blamed the attacks on Uyghur separatists demanding their own state in western China although security specialists say claims of separatist action by Uyghurs in Central Asia are overblown.
Kyrgyzstan, with a predominantly Muslim population of 5.7 million, frequently claims that it has prevented extremist attacks.
Bishkek estimated that around 500 nationals had joined so-called Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.