Islamabad/Beijing: The Islamic State terror group has claimed that it had killed two Chinese hostages, including a woman, who were abducted by armed gunmen from Pakistan's restive Balochistan province recently.
The hostages were studying Urdu language at a local teaching center in the provincial capital of Quetta when they were forcibly kidnapped by unknown gunmen last month.
Another Chinese woman had escaped the abduction.
The ISIS on its propaganda news agency 'Amaq' uploaded a statement in Arabic yesterday, saying it had killed the two abducted Chinese nationals.
Confirming reports of the killing of its nationals, China today said the murders have not been connected to China- Pakistan Economic Corridor but asserted that such risks are unavoidable as its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) goes global. China had worked closely with Pakistan to rescue them but "the two may have unfortunately been killed", Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said in Beijing, stating that Pakistan has informed China about their deaths.
This incident will not have any connection with the BRI, nor with the summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation meeting being held in Astana, Hua said.
China has deployed hundreds of its workers to work for the USD 50 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which is being opposed by the Baloch nationalists.
Hua said contrary to reports the two were not married and hailed from different provinces in China. Pakistan pays great attention to the protection of Chinese citizens in the institutions there and made great efforts for their security, she said.
After this incident, the Pakistan side had made their utmost efforts to rescue the hostage. Pakistan has also pledged to continue to take necessity actions to protect the Chinese citizens and institutions in the country, she said.
She, however, said Chinese people should be prepared to take risks as the multi-billion BRI spreads to different parts of the country. "As per BRI we should be prepared for risks if want to go global," she said.
"The world today is far from tranquil. In the process of promoting BRI it is inevitable that we will counter all kind of security issues and it should be taken seriously all the countries promoting economic cooperation," she said.
Pakistan Foreign Office said the government is working to confirm authenticity of the reports of the killing of two Chinese nationals.
"We are in constant contact with the Chinese Government. Pakistan remains committed to fight terrorism in all its forms. Dastardly acts of terrorism cannot weaken our resolve to eliminate this menace," the Foreign Office said in a statement.
It said Chinese living in Pakistan are "our honored guests and brothers, and we will continue to take all measures to ensure their safety."
The ISIS claim came a day after the Pakistan Army said that it had carried out an operation against ISIS in Balochistan, killing at least 12 militants.
Local media had reported that the operation was launched after intelligence reports suggested that the militants were hiding there with the Chinese hostages.
Pakistan has been grappling with Islamist and nationalist insurgencies in Balochistan since 2004, with hundreds of soldiers and militants killed in the fighting.
ISIS has been making inroads in Pakistan with the help of its ties with local militant outfits like Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Jamaat-ul-Ahrar. However, the government has largely downplayed the presence of the dreaded terror outfit.