QUETTA: A Pakistani regional police chief increased Sunday the death toll from an attack on a luxury hotel to five people, which he said did not include four gunmen killed by security forces.
A clearing operation was ongoing following Saturday night’s assault on the Pearl Continental hotel in the southwestern coastal town of Gwadar, police chief Munir Ahmad Zia said. He refused to share any further details, and no other government or military officials were available for comment.
In a statement early Sunday, Prime Minister Imran Khan called the attack an act of terrorism. He praised the “initial response by security guards and security forces” for preventing greater loss of life.
At least one hotel security guard was confirmed dead by the military Saturday, which said all hotel guests were safely evacuated. It was unclear if the newly announced casualties were civilians, hotel guards or security forces.
Two senior security officials said Saturday that four attackers had been killed. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorised to speak to the media.
A Baluch separatist group, the Baluch Liberation Army, claimed responsibility Saturday for the attack, saying four of its fighters were involved.
The same separatist group in 2018 attacked a Chinese consulate in the major southern city of Karachi, triggering a shootout in which all three insurgents, two police officers and two civilians were killed.
China is helping Pakistan to 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.
The latest attack 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.