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Pakistan PM slams hotel attack as bid to damage economy

ISLAMABAD: An attack on a luxury hotel in the southwestern city of Gwadar was a bid to “sabotage prosperity”, Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan said yesterday, as police confirmed all the attackers had been killed. Five people were killed Saturday after gunmen stormed a luxury hotel in the southwestern Pakistani city of Gwadar, the centerpiece of a multi-billion dollar Chinese infrastructure project. A Baloch separatist group, the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA), claimed responsibility for the attack via Twitter.

During the attack “5 individuals got Shaheed (martyred) including 4 hotel employees and a Pakistan Navy soldier,” the military said in a statement. One of the hotel staff killed was a security guard shot at the entrance. Six others were injured including four security service officers and two hotel staff members. The military said all three terrorists had been killed. Local police had earlier claimed there had been four attackers.

“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. Mohammad Aslam, a police official in Gwadar, told AFP Saturday that only staff were present in the building at the time of the attack. The BLA is one of a myriad of insurgent groups fighting in tightly-guarded Balochistan province, which has been rocked by separatist, Islamist and sectarian violence for years.

‘The next Dubai’
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 multi-billion dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

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 Straits. 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 branded Beijing “an oppressor”. 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 Taleban at one of the country’s oldest and most popular Sufi shrines killed at least 12 people in the eastern city of Lahore. – AFP

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