ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Heavily armed gunmen attacked a luxury hotel in southwestern Pakistan on Saturday, in an assault in which a Pakistani separatist group claimed to be targeting Chinese interests and warned of further violence.
“After more than 10 hours of continuous battle and achieving all their targets the BLA fighters have used their last bullets on them and have left this world,” said a Twitter post by what claims to be the official account of the separatist group, the Baluchistan Liberation Army.
It added: “Expect more attacks China and Pakistan.”
A Pakistani military official said that the gunmen had killed a security guard at the hotel entrance. The Chinese Embassy in Islamabad said that two other security agents had been wounded.
The hotel, the Zaver Pearl Continental in the city of Gwadar in Baluchistan Province, is frequently used by top government officials and Chinese workers employed on a port project in the area.
In claiming responsibility for the attack, the separatist group said that four gunmen had carried out the assault and that it was linked to the presence of Chinese and other foreign investors at the hotel.
The group also claimed an assault on the Chinese Consulate in the southern port city of Karachi last November.
Mohsin Hassan Butt, a top police official, said that no foreigners were inside the hotel at the time of Saturday’s attack, and that only staff members were inside.
Most of the hotel’s guests are attached to the government, multinational companies and Chinese involved in various projects. The Chinese employees of the Gwadar port project live in a separate location, though the hotel is often used for project-related meetings.
The Chinese Embassy condemned the attack. “The heroic action of Pakistani Army & law enforcement agencies is highly appreciated,” it said on Twitter. “We express condolences to the families of the security guard who sacrificed his life & two security men who were injured.”
Baluchistan is the site of several Chinese infrastructure projects, the biggest being a Chinese-operated deepwater port in Gwadar.
China is estimated to have spent around $62 billion on the so-called China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, an investment that is part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, a $1 trillion chain of infrastructure development programs stretching across around 70 countries.
Since the initiative began in 2013, Pakistan has served as its flagship site, with China using the partnership with its strategically located and nuclear-armed neighbor to advance its own military and economic interests.
Its plan for Gwadar includes a large special economic zone for Chinese companies.
Baluchistan is also viewed by Pakistani officials and some analysts as the scene of shadowy proxy wars between regional and international powers, including India and Iran.
In Saturday’s attack, after entering the hotel, the gunmen exchanged gunfire with security forces. Officials said they had evacuated most of the hotel’s occupants, and security forces had cordoned off the hotel. Still, the attack was seen as a major security breach because Gwadar has a large presence of security forces.
The Zaver Pearl Continental is on a hill overlooking the Arabian Sea, and Mr. Butt, the police official, said that the gunmen may have come by boat.
Baluchistan — a sparsely populated province rich in gold, copper and natural gas — borders Afghanistan and Iran. Ethnic Baluch separatists, demanding greater autonomy and rights, have clashed with security forces in a long-simmering insurgency there.
The insurgency has subsided in recent years. But sporadic attacks by Baluch separatists have continued. The Taliban also maintain a presence in some parts of the province.
Last month, gunmen dressed as security forces killed 14 people, most of whom worked for Pakistan’s navy and coast guards, near Gwardar.
By Salman Masood
The New York Times