Taking serious note of the “cowardly terrorists” attack on a bus in Khyber Pakhtunkhawa province in which nine Chinese engineers were killed, Global Times editor-in-chief Hu Xijin on Friday pulled up Islamabad and said “China’s missiles and special forces can be put into action” if “Pakistan’s capability is not enough”.

“The cowardly terrorists behind this attack dare not show up until now. But they will definitely be found out and must be exterminated. If Pakistan’s capability is not enough, with its consent, China’s missiles and special forces can be put into action,” he tweeted. The outburst of the Global Times editor-in-chief comes after China called for severe punishment post the incident, but Pakistan blamed the explosion on a “gas leak”.

Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry had in a statement earlier said the bus “plunged into a ravine after a mechanical failure, resulting in leakage of gas that caused a blast”.

Expressing his “shock” over the bombing, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian asked Pakistan to severely punish those responsible and “earnestly protect” the Chinese nationals and projects.

The blast took place earlier on Wednesday when bus was carrying the Chinese engineers besides the surveyors and mechanical staff to a hydropower dam construction site in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

The nine Chinese engineers killed in the blast were engaged in the construction of the Dasu hydropower project in northern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

This is not the first time that China has raised questions with Pakistan about the security concerns of its citizens working on the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects.

China’s Ambassador to Pakistan, Nong Rong, had earlier met Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa regarding Beijing’s investments in the CPEC and the security concerns of civilians.