Islamic State has released a video showing the bloodied body of a captive Chinese national the terrorist group claimed to have killed along with his female partner in southwestern Pakistan.
A provincial government official confirmed to VOA that the man who seems to be taking his last breaths in the video is one of the two Chinese kidnapped last month from Quetta, capital of Baluchistan province.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he said that authorities have not yet found the bodies of the Chinese nationals, and he would like to abstain from making any official assertions on the fate of the two foreigners.
China briefed by Pakistan
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a regular news briefing Friday that Beijing has been told by Islamabad the two abductees are probably dead.
"Pakistan's relevant side has provided China with some information and said these two kidnapped Chinese citizens have likely already been murdered. We are gravely concerned about this," she said.
Chunying added that Beijing is in contact with the Pakistani side and trying to learn more about and verify the situation by all means.
Islamic State's global media outlet, the Amaq News Agency, announced Thursday the group had executed the two captives in Mastung, a district about 50 kilometers south of Quetta.
Would-be headquarters destroyed
The Syria-based terrorist group issued the claim hours after Pakistani authorities announced a major military operation had destroyed a would-be IS headquarters in a rugged mountain range near Mastung.
The raid killed 12 hardcore militants while five security personnel were also wounded during clashes, an army spokesman said.
He added that the multi-cave complex spread across 10 kilometers was occupied by Lashkar-e-Jhangvi al-Alami, a Sunni extremist organization known for deadly attacks against minority Shi'ite Muslims in Pakistan.
The group used to be an al-Qaida loyalist, but Pakistani officials believe it has lately been working to help IS establish a foothold in Pakistan.
IS has taken credit for several recent deadly suicide bombings in Baluchistan and elsewhere in Pakistan. The latest such attack took place last month in Mastung, killing 25 people.
The military said the suicide bomber had been sent from the IS base security forces neutralized last week. Pakistani officials have long insisted IS has no organized presence in the country.
But a string of attacks and a major base the army destroyed in Mastung contradict officials claims, critics say.
The army also released video footage of the IS base it raided. A bomb-making facility was also destroyed, and security forces seized 50 kilograms of explosives, suicide vests, grenades, machine guns, sniper rifles and communication systems, according to an official statement.
Belt and Road
Baluchistan, particularly its newly expanded deep-water port of Gwadar on the Arabian Sea, is at the heart of a $60 billion Chinese-funded Belt and Road trade and development initiative.
The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) consists of a network of roads, rail links and power plants. It will ultimately link China's western Xinjiang region to Gwadar, giving Beijing the shortest trade access to the Middle East, Europe and Africa.
But as the work on CPEC-related projects has picked up, the Pakistani province is encountering an uptick in militant and separatist violence.
Thursday's announcement by IS, if confirmed, would increase worries among Chinese experts and workers associated with CPEC-related projects.
Pakistani officials acknowledge that the gruesome killings of the two Chinese will have a psychological impact on the joint economic activity but said the two nations are determined not to be deterred by such terrorist acts.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif reiterated the resolve while addressing a regional cooperation summit Friday in Kazakhstan.
We are diligently implementing the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which is a flagship of the BRI (Belt and Road Initiative), Sharif told the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCOA), which is jointly led by China and Russia.
Source: Voice of America