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The port city of Gwadar in Balochistan. Photo: Bloomberg

Gunmen attack luxury hotel in Pakistan’s Gwadar port city, hub of a multibillion-dollar Chinese infrastructure project

  • A group of attackers opened fire at the Pearl Continental hotel in Gwadar, where China is developing a multibillion-dollar port
  • Most of the hotel guests were evacuated in time, but a few people sustained minor injuries, said a minister

Gunmen stormed a luxury hotel Saturday in Pakistan’s southwestern port city of Gwadar, killing at least one guard and battling security forces for hours after all guests were evacuated. Four attackers were killed, officials said.

A regional separatist group, the Baluch Liberation Army, claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement. Gwadar’s commercial and political profile has been raised as the hub of a multibillion-dollar Chinese infrastructure project.

The same group claimed responsibility for an attack on the Chinese embassy in Karachi in November last year and another assault on Chinese engineers in the Baloch district of Chagai.

“All four of the terrorists have been killed,” said a senior security official told The Associated Press after security forces cornered the attackers inside the Pearl Continental Hotel.

A man stands by Chinese trucks parked at the Gwadar port. Photo: AFP

The army spokesman office said the militants attempted to enter the hotel and opened fire on guards. It said all guests had been safely evacuated.

The attack came just weeks after 14 members of Pakistan’s armed forces were attacked and killed while travelling on a highway near Ormara, an area in the same region. That attack was claimed by militants linked to another regional separatist movement.

Pakistan has complained to neighbouring Iran that such militant groups are active along their shared border but that Tehran has taken no action.

The Pearl Continental in Gwadar is a popular accommodation and meeting place for business travellers, many of them connected to the ambitious development and transport project there that is a centrepiece of Beijing’s burgeoning economic and political alliance with Pakistan.

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A statement from the Chinese embassy in Islamabad condemned the attack and said “the heroic action of Pakistani army and law enforcement agencies is highly appreciated.”

China has invested a reported US$60 billion in Pakistan, especially the Gwadar deep port on the Arabian Sea, to open and upgrade transport, infrastructure and communication links with far-western China.

The Balochistan chief minister, Jam Kamal Khan, condemned the attack and ordered security forces to place a high priority on ensuring the safety of all guests at the hotel.

Balochistan is host to a number of major projects under the multibillion-dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. Photo: AFP

Balochistan, a vast desert province, has been plagued with political violence for years. It is the home of several different ethnic and tribal militant separatist groups, as well as Islamist militants that have attacked churches.

Pakistani officials have also accused India of sending spies to infiltrate the region. India denies the claims.