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Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan speaking at the opening ceremony for the second Belt and Road Forum in Beijing in April. Photo: Reuters

Attack on Pearl Continental hotel in belt and road port was bid to damage economy, says Pakistan PM Imran Khan

  • Five people were killed in the raid on the only luxury hotel in Gwadar, a hub in China’s vast infrastructure initiative
An attack on a luxury hotel in the southwestern city of Gwadar was a bid to “sabotage prosperity”, Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan said on Sunday, as police confirmed all the attackers had been killed.

Five people were killed on Saturday after gunmen stormed a luxury hotel in the southwestern Pakistani city of Gwadar, the centrepiece of a multibillion-dollar Chinese infrastructure project.

The coastal highway to Gwadar, Pakistan. File photo: EPA
A Baloch separatist group, the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA), claimed responsibility for the attack via Twitter.

“Such attempts especially in Balochistan 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 four gunmen who stormed the hotel were killed overnight by security forces.

“All four terrorists were killed and security forces had taken complete control of the hotel building,” said a local police official in Gwadar.

Mohammad Aslam, a police official in Gwadar, said on Saturday that only staff were in the hotel at the time of the attack.

The BLA is one of several insurgent groups fighting in tightly-guarded Balochistan province, which has been rocked by separatist, Islamist and sectarian violence for years.

A Pakistani security personnel walks near a bus carrying Chinese engineers that was targeted by a suicide bomber in the Dalbandin region, about 340km (211 miles) from Quetta, in August 11, 2018. Photo: AFP

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 multibillion-dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

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Part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, 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 Strait.

Gwadar’s port. File photo: Xinhua

But 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 called Beijing “an oppressor”.

Pakistani security personnel outside the Chinese consulate in Karachi. File photo: AP

Balochistan is tightly guarded by the Pakistani military, who have been targeting insurgents there since 2004. The army has been repeatedly accused by international rights groups of abuses there, but denies all allegations.

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 the eastern city of Lahore.