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Gunmen Storm Hotel in China-Run Pakistani Gwadar Port


FILE - The five-star Zaver Pearl Continental hotel is seen on a hill in the southwestern Pakistani port city of Gwadar, March 8, 2019.

Officials in Pakistan say a group of several "terrorists" stormed a five-star hotel Saturday near the China-operated Arabian Sea port of Gwadar, killing at least one security guard.

The Pakistani military said its security forces quickly "encircled" the heavily armed assailants in the staircase leading to the top floor, and all guests were "safely evacuated" in the process.

The ensuing gunfight lasted nearly three hours, killing all the attackers. Pakistani security forces were reportedly searching for possible facilitators.

The Zaver Pearl Continental hotel, located on a hilltop overlooking the deep-water massive port, is the only such facility available in the southwestern port city and often hosts Chinese visitors, among others. The attackers reportedly entered through a gate dedicated for hotel employees.

A separatist group known as the Baluchistan Liberation Army took responsibility for the attack. It also released pictures of four purported gunmen through social media accounts, saying they carried out the raid. Claims could not be verified independently.

In a statement, the Chinese Embassy in Islamabad strongly condemned the terrorist attack and praised the Pakistani military for its "heroic action."

Last month, 14 Pakistani security personnel were forced out of passenger buses near Gwadar on the main coastal highway and shot dead in an attack claimed by a separatist Baloch militant group. Islamabad alleged the attackers had come from hideouts in border areas of Iran and demanded the neighboring country take action against them.

Baloch militants routinely target security forces and government installations in the natural resource-rich Pakistani province.

Beijing built the massive Gwadar port under a multibillion-dollar bilateral mega-project known as China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The port is at the mouth of the Persian Gulf, and officials anticipate it soon will become a hub of regional commerce and transit.

Pakistan has deployed specially trained security forces in Gwadar and other parts of the country hosting CPEC-related infrastructure projects to protect them and Chinese engineers against militant attacks.

Beijing considers CPEC is a flagship of its global Belt and Road Initiative.