A van driven by a suicide bomber exploded after ramming through a gate at the Chinese embassy in Kyrgyzstan on Tuesday, wounding three people, authorities said.
“As a result of the explosion, only the suicide bomber terrorist died. Security guards were injured,” Kyrgyzstan’s Deputy Prime Minister Jenish Razakov told journalists at the scene.
Razakov said the three wounded were all Kyrgyz employees of the Chinese embassy and that they had been taken to hospital. Local medics said their injuries were not serious.
Police sources told AFP that a Mitsubishi Delica van smashed through a gate at the embassy Tuesday morning before blowing up in the centre of the compound close to the ambassador’s residence.
A police source confirmed that the vehicle was driven by a suicide bomber and described the incident as a “terrorist attack”. Body parts thought to be from the attacker were found several hundred metres from the blast site, a source said.
The security service of the ex-Soviet Central Asian nation — which borders China — said an “explosive device” had been placed inside the vehicle, an official said.
– Houses shook –
Local residents told AFP that the blast had blown in their windows and caused their houses to shake.
Pictures posted on social media purporting to be from the embassy showed a gate smashed open and debris inside the compound.
An AFP journalist close to the scene said that damage could be seen on the embassy buildings and that police had cordoned off the area as emergency services worked.
Law enforcement officials also blocked traffic on one of the city’s main highways and were checking vehicles.
Employees from the Chinese and nearby American embassy on the edge of the city were evacuated, the Kyrgyz emergency service said.
Impoverished majority-Muslim Kyrgyzstan has a history of political instability and battling Islamist extremism.
The economically troubled ally of Russia has seen two governments overthrown and ethnic violence claim hundreds of lives since it gained independence in 1991.
The authorities regularly announce that they have foiled attacks planned by the Islamic State group in the country.
Security forces last year said they had engaged in several deadly shootouts with suspected “terrorists” in Bishkek.
Officials say that some 500 Kyrgyz are thought to have joined the ranks of Islamic State fighting in Syria and Iraq.
Chinese officials in the country have previously been targeted, with one shot dead in 2000 in an attack blamed on radicals from China’s Uighur minority.
Violence has plagued China’s northwestern region of Xinjiang, the homeland of the mostly Muslim Uighur ethnic minority, in recent years, sometimes spreading beyond it.
Beijing blames the violence on separatist Islamist terrorists, with overseas connections, while rights groups point to what they say is discrimination and controls over the Uighurs’ culture and religion.
Kyrgyzstan and the other ex-Soviet Central Asian nations have come under fire for using a purported terror threat to silence criticism of their secular regimes.
Kyrgyzstan is gearing up to mark 25 years since independence from the Soviet Union with celebrations in Bishkek on Wednesday.