KARACHI: Three heavily-armed militants on Saturday stormed a luxury hotel in Pakistan's port city of Gwadar in the restive Balochistan province, leading to a fierce gunbattle in which four persons including the attackers were killed, police said.
The armed men entered the upscale Pearl Continental (PC) Hotel and opened random firing, a senior police official said. They shot dead a guard at the entrance, the army's media wing Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said.
A shootout between the militants and the security forces broke out at the hotel as the anti-terrorism force, the Army and the Frontier Corps were called in, Gwadar Station House Officer (SHO) Aslam Bangulzai said. Balochistan Home Minister Ziaullah Langov said that all the three attackers were killed by the security forces. He said that some of the guests in the hotel were also injured but their number was not immediately known.
The outlawed Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) claimed responsibility of the attack. BLA's spokesperson Junaid Baloch said that the attack was carried out by the militants linked with its Majeed Brigade group. Locals said several gunshots were heard after the terrorists entered the luxury hotel. Gwadar Deputy Commissioner Captain (retd) Mohammad Waseem said that "all the guests and staff members have been rescued" from the hotel and "the process of clearing the hotel has entered its final stages".
Gwadar port is one of the focal points of the USD 50 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) with many Chinese workers from other provinces of Pakistan working at the port. The Chinese embassy in Pakistan, in a tweet, condemned the attack on the hotel and expressed condolences to the families of the security guard who was killed and two security men who were injured.
The hotel, frequented by business as well as leisure travellers, is located on the Koh-e-Batil hill, south of West Bay on Fish Harbour road in Gwadar. All foreign and local guests staying at the hotel had been safely evacuated, Express Tribune quoted Balochistan Information Minister Zahoor Buledi as saying.
"At around 4:50 pm (local time) we got reports that there are two to there armed men in PC Hotel," SHO Bangulzai said. "Two to three gunmen had first fired at and then entered the hotel," Inspector General of Police (IGP) Mohsin Hassan Butt said. "A clearance operation was going on," a spokesman of the army said.
The provincial police chief further said that "the attackers may have come in a boat to launch the attack". Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan Alyani condemned "the terrorists attack" on PC Hotel, and instructed the authorities to "ensure the safety of all inside the hotel", Dawn news reported. He called for a "well planned and strong action against the terrorists", adding that he is "in touch with police and local administration" regarding the situation.
Balochistan, which borders Afghanistan and Iran, is Pakistan's largest and poorest province, rife with ethnic, sectarian and separatist insurgencies. On April 18, unidentified gunmen donning uniforms of paramilitary soldiers massacred at least 14 passengers, including Pakistan Navy personnel, after forcing them to disembark from buses on a highway in Balochistan.
China is investing heavily in Balochistan under the CPEC. The CPEC, launched in 2015, is a planned network of roads, railways and energy projects linking China's resource-rich Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region with Pakistan's strategic Gwadar Port on the Arabian Sea. The BLA is one of the most-organised terrorist group of Baloch nationalists fighting against security forces. The group was also involved in the terrorist attack at the Chinese consulate in Karachi last year.