Pakistan hotel cleared after deadly insurgent attack kills 5
Published Saturday, May 11, 2019 12:36PM EDT Last Updated Sunday, May 12, 2019 9:40AM EDT
QUETTA, Pakistan -- An insurgent attack at a luxury hotel on Pakistan's southwestern coast killed five people, including a special forces soldier, a hotel security guard and three staff members, the country's military said Sunday after concluding a painstaking operation to clear the hotel and defuse explosive devices left behind by the attackers.
The statement clarified that three gunmen -- not four as initially reported -- had been killed during the eight-hour gunfight with security forces on Saturday inside the Pearl Continental hotel in the city of Gwadar.
The attackers failed to take any guests hostage, but the hotel staff and guard were killed as the insurgents stormed the building. The military said six people, including two soldiers, were also wounded.
Prime Minister Imran Khan called the attack an act of terrorism and praised the “initial response by security guards and security forces” for preventing greater loss of life.
A Baluch separatist group, the Baluch Liberation Army, claimed responsibility Saturday for the attack, releasing photos of the four insurgents who it said took part. Initially, senior security officials had said four assailants had been killed. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to speak to the media.
The Baluch Liberation Army carried out a dozen attacks last year against Chinese-linked projects. In November, the group attacked a Chinese consulate in the major southern city of Karachi, triggering a shootout that killed two police officers, two civilians and all three insurgents.
Beijing is financing tens of billions of dollars' worth of megaprojects in Pakistan and is currently helping build a modern port in Gwadar, 600 kilometres (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. Residents of Baluchistan and other areas accuse the central government of favouring the country's Punjab province, home to some 60 per cent of the country's 200 million people and most of the political elite.
The attack on the Pearl Continental came weeks after Islamabad claimed that a group of militants crossed the border from neighbouring 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.
Associated Press Writer Munir Ahmed contributed to this report from Islamabad, Pakistan