The attack on a luxury hotel in the southwestern city of Gwadar was a bid to “sabotage prosperity”, Prime Minister Imran Khan said yesterday, as police confirmed that all the attackers had been killed.
At least one person was shot dead on Saturday after three gunmen stormed the five-star Pearl Continental hotel in Gwadar, the centrepiece of a multi-billion dollar Chinese infrastructure project.
A Baloch separatist group, the Baluchistan Liberation Army (BLA), claimed responsibility for the attack via Twitter.
“Such attempts, especially in Baluchistan, are an effort to sabotage our economic projects and prosperity. We shall not allow these agendas to succeed,” Khan said in a statement issued by his office.
The Chinese embassy in Islamabad also strongly condemned the incident.
Local police said that the gunmen who had stormed the hotel, shooting dead a security guard, had been killed overnight by security forces.
“All the terrorists were killed and security forces had taken complete control of the hotel building,” a local police official in Gwadar told AFP via telephone.
His account was confirmed by a security source in Islamabad.
The military had said overnight that the gunmen had already been killed, and that the attack had ended, but it emerged yesterday that attackers were still holed up inside the compound with hostages.
After confusion and speculation, the military said in the afternoon yesterday that there all the gunmen were killed, and that the siege was over.
Mohamed Aslam, a police official in Gwadar, told AFP on Saturday that only hotel staff were present in the building at the time of the attack.
However, the military said that commandos first rescued hotel guests and the staff before launching clearing operations.
Aside from the three gunmen, five others – three security guards, a hotel employee, and one navy soldier – were killed.
At least six people – including four security personnel – were wounded in the shootout.
The military said the militants planted bombs after entering the hotel and disconnected communication systems, delaying the clearance operation.
The BLA is one of a myriad of insurgent groups fighting in tightly-guarded Baluchistan province, which has been rocked by separatist, Islamist and sectarian violence for years.
The Pearl Continental, part of Pakistan’s largest five-star hotel chain, is the only luxury hotel in Gwadar, frequented by foreign and Pakistani business delegations as well as diplomats.
It sits isolated on a ridge overlooking the Arabian Sea port city that was formerly a small fishing village, but now touted by officials as “the next Dubai” thanks to the multi-billion dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
Part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the CPEC seeks to connect the western Chinese province of Xinjiang with Gwadar, with the development of the port as the plan’s flagship project.
Gwadar will provide China with safer and more direct access to the oil-rich Middle East than the waterway trade route it currently uses through the narrow Malacca Straits.
However, it has also drawn its share of attacks – particularly from separatists who have long complained that residents of Pakistan’s poorest and largest province do not receive a fair share of profits from its resources.
The BLA has targeted Chinese workers in Pakistan multiple times, including during a brazen daylight attack on the Chinese consulate in Karachi which killed four people in November last year.
At the time, the BLA branded Beijing “an oppressor”.
Baluchistan is tightly guarded by the Pakistani military, who have been targeting insurgents there since 2004.
The attack was the second deadly attack in a prominent Pakistan city this week, after a suicide blast claimed by the Pakistani Taliban at one of the country’s oldest and most popular Sufi shrines killed at least 12 people in Lahore.
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