ZAHOOR and his brother Bilawal photographed a few days ago outside Pearl Continental Hotel, Gwadar.—Dawn
ZAHOOR and his brother Bilawal photographed a few days ago outside Pearl Continental Hotel, Gwadar.—Dawn

QUETTA / ISLAMABAD: The Army announced on Sunday successful completion of the clearance operation at Gwadar’s five-star hotel that was attacked by terrorists the previous day, saying four hotel employees and a Navy soldier embraced martyrdom while all three attackers were eliminated.

The Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said in a statement that security forces had completed the clearance operation at the Pearl Continental Hotel.

All three terrorists were killed and their bodies have been retained for identification.

Four hotel employees and a Pakistan Navy soldier embraced martyrdom and six others — two Army captains, two Navy soldiers and two hotel staffers — suffered injuries.

The attack, claimed by the banned nationalist group Baloch Liberation Army, had started on Saturday evening and it took over 12 hours to complete the clearance operation, which shows the complexity of the operation in which all guests were safely evacuated.

The Army’s Quick Reaction Force, troops from Special Services Group and Navy, police and Frontier Corps took part in the operation.

Prime Minister Imran Khan, in a statement, hailed the successful completion of the operation. Condemning the attack, Mr Khan appreciated “initial response by security guards and security forces” that prevented “greater loss of human lives”. He paid tributes to those who lost their lives in the attack or got injured.

The prime minister said the Gwadar attack and similar attacks in Balochistan in recent past were “an effort to sabotage our economic projects and prosperity”. He vowed to foil such nefarious agendas.

Lately there has been a surge in terrorist activity in Balochistan. Security officials believe the sudden intensification of attacks is linked to the launch of the second phase of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, the progress on border fencing and the fluid situation in Afghanistan.

Navy soldier, four hotel employees martyred; PM terms attack bid to sabotage projects; all three terrorists eliminated

“Terrorists had attempted entry into the hotel to target and take hostage the guests present,” the ISPR, the media wing of the military, said. Their plan to take hostages was foiled, a security official said while talking to Dawn.

Recalling the incident, the ISPR said the security guards challenged the terrorists when they forced their way into the hotel. The terrorists then took the stairs to upper floors. One of the hotel guards, identified as Zahoor, embraced martyrdom after the terrorists resorted to firing. “On their way to upper floors, the terrorists kept firing indiscriminately, resulting in martyrdom of three more hotel employees — Farhad, Bilawal and Awais — while two got injured,” it said.

The security forces, the ISPR said, reached the hotel soon after the attack got under way. They troops pinned down the three terrorists on the hotel’s fourth floor and simultaneously began securing guests and staff.

Officials had initially said that there were no guests in the hotel at the time of the attack.

“By night guests and employees of the hotel had been secured. It took longer to rescue those on the fourth floor,” a security source said.

Official sources said that there was no Chinese national or any other foreigner among the guests rescued from the hotel. “No foreigner was present in the hotel when the attack took place,” they said.

“After ensuring safe evacuation of guests and staff, clearance operation was launched to take on the terrorists,” the ISPR said.

“The terrorists had made CCTV cameras dysfunctional and planted IEDs on all entry points leading to the fourth floor. Security forces made special entry points to get to the fourth floor, shot dead all terrorists and removed IEDS,” it added.

Pakistan Navy soldier Abbas Khan embraced martyrdom in an exchange of fire with the terrorists while two Army captains and as many Navy soldiers were injured.

ISPR director general Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor thanked the media for responsible reporting and coverage of operation, saying it denied the terrorists possible live updates and thus facilitated security forces in smooth execution of the operation.

The bodies of Zahoor and Bilawal, both brothers, were sent to their village in Badin district of Sindh where they were buried amid moving scenes. One of the injured, Rasheed Lashari, who is the cousin of the two brothers, was shifted to a Karachi hospital due to critical injuries he had received.

Fifteen men from Badin district, who have been staying in Gwadar for the last one year to earn their livelihood, are said to be returning home due to sense of insecurity.

Condemnation

The Chinese embassy in Islamabad condemned the terrorist attack. “The heroic action of Pakistan Army and law enforcement agencies is highly appreciated,” it said and condoled with the families of those who lost their lives in the attack.

Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Seyyed Abbas Mousavi also condemned the attack. Reaffirming counterterrorism support for Pakistan, he said: “We are standing alongside the Pakistani nation and government with all our facilities.”

Muhammad Hashim Bhurgari and Hanif Sammon from Badin also contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, May 13th, 2019