Heavily Armed Militants Storm Pakistan's China-Operated Gwadar Port, 7 Dead

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by Tyler Durden
Wednesday, Mar 20, 2024 - 03:25 PM

A rare terror attack has unfolded at Pakistan's strategic port city of Gwadar on Wednesday, which is crucial to the multi-billion dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). A group of heavily armed militants stormed the complex and engaged in a lengthy firefight with security forces.

Pakistan authorities identified the attackers as Baloch separatists, which had also been armed with bombs. At least seven of the militants were shot dead by security forces. The port has for more than the past decade been run by  the China Overseas Port Holding Company.

Pakistan's Gwadar port authority complex, via India Today

There are unconfirmed reports that a soldier may have died in the attack. "Attackers carried out many blasts," government official Saeed Ahmed Umrani announced in the aftermath.

Few details have been given about how precisely the attack unfolded, but regional media has indicated that "Majeed Brigade of the proscribed Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) has claimed responsibility for the attack." The group said it targeted Pakistan intelligence offices. A heavy police and military presence responded to the port as gunfire was still ringing out.

This southwestern region of the Pakistani province of Balochistan (also the name of a region which extends into Iran and Afghanistan) has been focus of heavy investment from China, and despite Balochistan being well-known for its natural resources including minerals, gas, and coal - the local population remains in severe poverty.

Ethnic separatist and radical Islamic terrorist organizations have for years waged a long-running insurgency against the government and its foreign partners, accusing Islamabad of exploiting the population of the region.

These groups have especially sought to target infrastructure and projects of the CPEC, seeing in it further confirmation that the Pakistan government is stealing from locals and enriching itself off foreign investments.

There have been longstanding reports that China is seeking to establish more naval bases on Pakistan's coast. One recent regional report details the following in Gwadar's port:

Open-source satellite imagery analysis has detected Chinese complexes in Gwadar with "unusually high security", the report said.

While security could easily have been increased in response to the unsafe environs of Balochistan, which has seen a resurgence of insurgency and terrorist attacks, a hardening of the Chinese facilities could alternatively be an indicator of a covert militarized use of the port, akin to China's apparent plans to secretly militarize its port facilities in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

China has long deployed security forces in order to protect these key economic corridors of the One Belt One Road Initiative, commonly called the Silk Road Economic Belt.

Location of Pakistan's Gwadar Port, Google Maps

A theme of recent years has been Pakistan pivoting away from the US, both financially, diplomatically and militarily, and all the while China is only too happy to step in and fill the voids. Beijing is increasingly not just expanding its economic reach abroad, but is planting military bases along southern Asia and East Africa as well.