By Naveed Murtaza
Islamabad— Heavily armed gunmen attacked a luxury hotel in Gawadar Pakistan on Saturday, in an assault in which a Pakistani separatist group claimed to be targeting Chinese interests and warned of further violence.
“After more than 10 hours of continuous battle and achieving all their targets the BLA fighters have used their last bullets on them and have left this world,” said a Twitter post by what claims to be the official account of the separatist group, the Baluchistan Liberation Army.
The gunmen stormed the hotel, usually popular with top government officials and foreign visitors, at around 16:50 local time (11:50 GMT), killing at least one security guard who tried to stop them at the entrance.
Security forces entered the hotel and took part in a gun battle with the militants, before cornering them in a staircase leading to the top floor, officials said
A clearing operation was ongoing following Saturday night’s assault on the Pearl Continental hotel in the southwestern coastal town of Gwadar, police chief Munir Ahmad Zia said. He refused to share any further details, and no other government or military officials were available for comment.
In a statement early Sunday, Prime Minister Imran Khan called the attack an act of terrorism. He praised the “initial response by security guards and security forces” for preventing greater loss of life.
At least one hotel security guard was confirmed dead by the military Saturday, which said all hotel guests were safely evacuated. It was unclear if the newly announced casualties were civilians, hotel guards or security forces.
Two senior security officials said Saturday that four attackers had been killed. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to speak to the media.
A Baluch separatist group, the Baluch Liberation Army, claimed responsibility Saturday for the attack, saying four of its fighters were involved.
The same separatist group in 2018 attacked a Chinese consulate in the major southern city of Karachi, triggering a shootout in which all three insurgents, two police officers and two civilians were killed.
China is helping Pakistan to build a modern port in Gwadar, 600 kilometers (373 miles) west of Karachi. The Pearl Continental hotel is located near the port.
Gwadar lies in the southwestern province of Baluchistan, the scene of a low-level insurgency by separatists who demand a greater share of the province’s natural gas and mineral resources. Pakistan says it has quelled the insurgency, but violence has continued.
The latest attack came weeks after Islamabad claimed that a group of militants crossed the border from neighboring Iran and killed 14 security officials when they were on their way to Gwadar in buses.
Pakistan at the time blamed a Baluch separatist group, Raji Aajoi Sangar, for the killings.