CNN  — 

An attack on Chinese engineers in Pakistan’s southwestern province of Balochistan was thwarted by Pakistan’s military, leaving two militants dead and the Chinese workers unharmed, police say.

Chakar Baloch, the police superintendent for the district of Gwadar, where the attack took place, told CNN that a clearance operation is underway after clashes between police and militants went on for two hours. Two security personnel were injured.

In a statement to CNN, the Baloch Liberation Army, a militant separatist group, claimed responsibility for the attack.

Pakistan’s armed forces said at least two militants were killed and three others were injured in an exchange of fire with security forces.

The military said that security forces have cordoned off the entire area and launched a search operation.

China’s Foreign Ministry said Monday it strongly condemned the attack, urging the Pakistani authorities to punish the perpetrators and ensure the safety of Chinese citizens.

“China will continue to work with Pakistan to prevent and respond to the threat of terrorism, and effectively protect the safety of Chinese personnel, institutions and projects in Pakistan,” Chinese Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin said.

“Any attempt to undermine (the) China-Pakistan friendship and the construction of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) will never succeed,” he added.

The CPEC is a $60 billion project that links China’s western Xinjiang region to Pakistan’s strategic Gwadar port on the Arabian Sea with a network of roads, railways, pipelines and power plants.

It’s a flagship project of the Belt and Road Initiative, Chinese leader Xi jinping’s signature global infrastructure program.

Bordering Afghanistan and Iran, Balochistan is Pakistan’s largest but least populated province. It’s also home to the Gwadar port, a crucial link in the CPEC.

China is a close partner of Pakistan and its biggest source of military and economic support. But in recent years terrorist attacks targeting Chinese nationals and their interests in Pakistan have alarmed Beijing.

In April 2022, three teachers from China and a driver were killed in a suspected suicide bombing near the University of Karachi’s Confucius Institute. The Baloch Liberation Army also claimed responsibility for that attack, saying that it targeted the Confucius Institute because it is a “symbol of Chinese economic, cultural and political expansionism.”

Meanwhile, the last major attack on Chinese engineers was in July 2021 in the north of Pakistan. More than a dozen people were killed after a bus carrying Chinese engineers fell into a ditch following a “fiery explosion,” according to local police.