Five people including a soldier were killed after gunmen stormed a luxury hotel in the southwestern Pakistan port city of Gwadar, the military said on Sunday May 12.
The soldier was among security forces who rushed to the five-star Pearl Continental Hotel after the attack on Saturday.
During the attack “5 individuals got Shaheed [martyred] including 4 hotel employees and a Pakistan Navy soldier,” the Inter-Services Public Relations directorate said in a statement that included graphic images of dead bodies. Six others were injured – two hotel staff and four security forces personnel.
One of the hotel staff killed was a security guard shot at the entrance.
After entering the hotel, the militants moved to a staircase “firing indiscriminately” and killing three more hotel employees, the statement said. The security forces then “restricted” the militants to a corridor on the fourth floor, where they “made CCTV cameras dysfunctional and planted IEDs on all entry points.”
Once the hotel was evacuated, the security forces launched a clearance operation, and in the ensuing exchange of fire the navy soldier was killed. Two army captains and two navy soldiers were injured, the statement said.
The Majeed Brigade of the Baloch Liberation Army claimed responsibility for the attack using a since-suspended Twitter account, saying that it targeted Chinese and other foreign investors. The hotel is a centerpiece of a multi-billion dollar Chinese infrastructure project in Pakistan.
The Baloch separatist group shared an image of four men it said had carried out the attack.
The military said three terrorists had been killed. Local police had earlier claimed there had been four attackers.
In a statement released on Telegram, the BLA claimed that the four fighters had “killed scores of foreigners and Pakistani personnel,” and that Gwadar port was “attacked with rockets inflicting heavy losses on it.”
It said that “foreign powers particularly China should immediately withdraw from their all projects in Balochistan. In these circumstances BLA is willing to halt its actions against Chinese nationals.”
The Pearl Continental, part of Pakistan’s largest five-star hotel chain, is the only luxury hotel in Gwadar, formerly a small fishing village but now touted by officials as “the next Dubai” thanks to the multi-billion dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, part of China’s Belt and Road initiative.
CPEC seeks to connect China’s western Xinjiang province 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.
The Baloch Liberation Army, one of a myriad of insurgent groups fighting in Balochistan, 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 China “an oppressor.”
The statement said that the hotel attack was “fully supported by Baloch armed organisations Balochistan Liberation Front and Baloch Republican Army (Beebarg).”
With reporting from AFP. This post was updated on May 12