Gunmen storm luxury hotel in Pakistan port city of Gwadar: official

Up to four armed men entered the Pearl Continental hotel in Gwadar and opened fire. (File/Social media)
Updated 11 May 2019

Gunmen storm luxury hotel in Pakistan port city of Gwadar: official

  • Gunmen attacked a hotel in Pakistan's southwestern port city of Gwadar and battled security forces
  • Most guests were evacuated from the 5-star Pearl Continental Hotel but attackers appeared to have reached the 1st floor

ISLAMABAD: Gunmen have stormed a five-star hotel in the southwestern Pakistani port city of Gwadar, the centrepiece of a multi-billion dollar Chinese infrastructure project in the country, a provincial minister said Saturday.
"Up to four armed men entered the Pearl Continental hotel in Gwadar and opened fire," Balochistan provincial home minister Ziaullah Langu told AFP by telephone.
He said the "majority" of guests had been evacuated and security forces were engaging the militants.
"However, there are reports of a few people sustaining minor injuries," he added.

Mohammad Aslam, the on-duty officer in Gwadar, said he could hear gunfire but that the operation was coming to an end.
"There were no Chinese or Pakistani guests in the hotel", he said, adding that only staff were present in the building.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.
The attack came three weeks after separatist gunmen targeting naval and security forces killed 14 people after forcing them off buses in Balochistan.
Pakistan's poorest and largest province, Balochistan has been rocked by separatist, extremists and sectarian insurgencies for years.
Pakistani security forces have been targeting insurgents in the province since 2004, and have also been repeatedly accused by international rights groups of abuses there. The military denies the allegations.
Balochistan is also host to a number of major projects under the multi-billion dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
The massive infrastructure project seeks to connect the western Chinese province of Xinjiang with Gwadar, on the Arabian Sea.
But it has also drawn its share of attacks, particularly by separatists who have long complained that residents do not receive a fair share of profits from the province's resources.
Violence in Pakistan has dropped significantly since the country's deadliest-ever militant attack, an assault on a school in the northwestern city of Peshawar in 2014 that killed more than 150 people -- most of them children.
But militants still retain the ability to carry out attacks, and analysts have long warned that Pakistan is yet to tackle the root causes of extremism.


Sri Lanka turns former military air base into third international airport

Updated 18 October 2019

Sri Lanka turns former military air base into third international airport

  • President Sirisena termed the opening of Palaly Airport for commercial flights “a significant landmark of the development program commenced after the conclusion of the conflict.”

COLOMBO: The Palaly Airport, a former military air base, has been turned into Jaffna International Airport, the third gateway to the island.

The new airport was inaugurated by the island’s President, Maithripala Sirisena, while Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and his Cabinet ministers also witnessed the ceremony.

The refurbished airport, costing $13.8 million, has a 1,400-meter long runway to facilitate ATR 72 aircraft, which can carry 70 passengers. It will later be expanded to 3,500 meters to handle large passenger aircraft such as the Airbus A320 and A321.

Located approximately 16 km north of Jaffna, Palaly was a Sri Lanka Air Force base and a domestic airport. The airport was built by the British Royal Air Force during the WWII.

After independence, Palaly Airport was used as the second international airport of the country for flights to southern India before the civil war began, almost 40 years ago.

President Sirisena termed the opening of Palaly Airport for commercial flights “a significant landmark of the development program commenced after the conclusion of the conflict.”

Prime Minister Wickremesinghe said the upgraded Jaffna International Airport marked a “turning point” in Sri Lankan aviation, which would be “an asset for the entire nation.”

“The airport will deploy regional airliners and be elevated to an Asian travel destination,” the premier said.

“The airport, which is expected to accommodate direct flights between Sri Lanka and India, will contribute toward promoting the tourism industry in the north. This will play an important role in the economic growth and overall development of the country,” he added.  

The service will be made available first for Indian destinations, and later for flights to Australia, China, Japan, the Middle East and some European cities.                                                      

Transport and Civil Aviation Minister Arjuna Ranatunga said Palaly airport was developed into Jaffna International Airport in a very short period of time.

“We were able to overcome the challenge successfully due to the sincere assistance we received from all institutes and stakeholders contributed to the development,” he said.

The minister said that in addition to Colombo and Jaffna international airports, three more airports in Sri Lanka will be upgraded to international airports, such as Ratmalana and Batticaloa.

“The opening of Jaffna airport for regional scheduled commercial passenger operations will undoubtedly enhance the quality of life of people in the area, with improved connectivity and accessibility that the airport brings to the region. It would also help reduce the current congestion at Bandaranaike International Airport and also eliminate the difficulties of the people in the north have in coming to Colombo Airport,” said H. M. C.Nimalsiri, director general of civil aviation.