updated 5/3/2004 5:11:57 AM ET 2004-05-03T09:11:57

Three Chinese engineers working on a seaport project were killed and eleven other people were injured in a car bomb attack in remote southwestern Pakistan on Monday, police and hospital officials said.

The attack occurred early in the morning as the bus was taking at least 12 Chinese workers to the Gawadar port, about 300 miles west of Karachi, near the border with Iran, said Sattar Lasi, the chief of police in Gawadar.

“A car was parked near the port and it exploded as the bus reached the port,” Lasi said. He said it was not clear if it was a suicide attack or the car was exploded by remote control.

Authorities have not yet found the remains of any bomber inside the car, he said, though the force of the blast will make it hard to determine whether someone was inside.

Eleven people were injured — nine of them Chinese — in the explosion, Lasi said. The others were a Pakistani driver and security guard.

The motive for the attack was not immediately clear. Islamic militant groups have targeted foreigners in the past, but never in such a remote part of the country. China is Pakistan’s most important ally and one of its chief trading partners.

The Chinese Embassy was closed Monday, a holiday in Pakistan marking the birth of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad, but a duty officer who identified himself as Cai, said the embassy was monitoring the situation closely. He had no additional information.

The Chinese all worked for China Harbor Company in a project to develop the Gawadar seaport on the Arabian Sea. It is not clear how long they had been in the country.

Masood Ahmed, a doctor at the state-run Civil Hospital in Gawadar, said the dead and injured were brought to the facility. Three of the injured were in serious condition, he said.

Pakistan has been relatively peaceful in recent months, but there have been some close calls.

A powerful bomb was found and defused outside the U.S. Consulate in Karachi in March.
In December, President Gen. Pervez Musharraf survived two assassination attempts, the last one killing 16 people, most of them passers-by. Musharraf, who was not injured in either attempt, blamed Islamic militants linked to al-Qaida for the attacks.

In the months after Sept. 11, 2001, Islamic militants outraged by Musharraf’s support for the United States carried out a series of deadly attacks on foreigners and minority Pakistani Christians.

On May 8, 2002, a suicide bomber attacked a bus carrying French engineers outside the Sheraton Hotel in Karachi, killing 11 of them. The French had been helping the Pakistani armed forces develop a new submarine.

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