Islamabad, Pakistan – Gunmen have stormed a five-star hotel in Pakistan‘s port city of Gwadar, killing at least five people, officials said.
In a statement, Pakistan’s military said three armed men killed a security guard as they attempted to enter the Pearl Continental hotel on Saturday in the southern city.
Local hospital officials say the death toll from the Gwadar attack has risen to at least five.
“Five people were killed, and there were six wounded,” Abdul Latif, the chief of Gwadar’s main government hospital, told Al Jazeera by telephone.
The military said four hotel employees and a Pakistan Navy soldier were killed.
All five bodies had been moved to Karachi, the country’s largest city, Latif said. One of the wounded remains in a critical condition, while the other five were “out of danger”, he said.
Security officials told Al Jazeera that government forces quickly moved in and secured the area, evacuating guests and staff and restricting the gunmen’s movement to a corridor located in the fourth floor of the building.
According to the military, all guests at the hotel, which has 114 rooms, were safely evacuated.
The Baloch Liberation Army (BLA), an ethnic Baloch separatist group fighting for independence for Balochistan province, claimed responsibility for the attack, saying that four fighters were involved.
“Our fighters have carried out this attack on Chinese and other foreign investors who were staying in PC hotel,” said Jihand Baloch, a BLA spokesperson, in a statement emailed to Al Jazeera.
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan condemned the attack in a statement on Sunday and thanked security forces for “foiling greater loss to human lives”.
“Such attempts especially in Balochistan are an effort to sabotage our economic projects and prosperity,” Khan said. “We shall not allow these agendas to succeed.”
Gwadar is the site of a major port built as the culmination of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a trade corridor that links southwestern China to the Arabian Sea through Pakistan.
The $60bn CPEC project has seen massive investment in infrastructure across Pakistan, including major roads and the Gwadar port in Balochistan province.
Recent days have seen an uptick in violence in the province, with ethnic Baloch separatist groups ramping up attacks against security forces and civilians.
On Thursday, at least five people were killed when BLA gunmen attacked a coal mine in the Harnai district of Balochistan.
The BLA and other armed groups have been fighting Pakistani security forces for more than a decade, demanding independence for the ethnic Baloch areas of Balochistan province, which they claim has been neglected by the Pakistani state and exploited for its mineral resources.
Balochistan, located in southwestern Pakistan, is the country’s largest but least populated province, with rich deposits of natural gas, coal, metals and minerals.
Rights groups allege that Pakistani security forces have abducted hundreds of pro-freedom Baloch political activists and fighters in their fight to quell the rebellion.
Last month, an alliance of Baloch separatist groups ambushed a passenger bus en route from Gwadar to Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city, killing at least 14 people.
Asad Hashim is Al Jazeera’s digital correspondent in Pakistan. He tweets @AsadHashim.
Additional reporting by Saadullah Akhtar in Quetta.