40 killed as blast rips through posh Pak hotel

20 09 2008


Source: CNN IBN

Islamabad: A deadly suicide attack outside the high-security Marriott Hotel in the heart of Pakistan’s capital left at least 40 people dead and hundreds injured.

The attack – one of the worst in Pakistan’s history – caused a huge explosion outside the five-star hotel where families had gathered to celebrate Iftar – a celebration after a month of Ramzan.

A reporter at the scene told CNN that as many as 200 people were feared to be inside the building. Television images showed flames and smoke pouring out of the hotel and bodies being carried away.

“The explosion happened as a car reached the barricade outside the hotel,” said a senior police official, adding that it appeared to have been a suicide attack.

The manager of Marriott Hotel confirmed to newsmen that sniffer dogs detected the bomber but he blew himself up immediately after.

The big bang

The blast was the biggest to hit Islamabad and destroyed dozens of cars outside and shattered windows and damaged buildings hundreds of metres away.

The Marriott chain has its headquarters in the United States. Police at the scene said people were still trapped inside. A crane was brought in to try to get people out.

There was a large crater in the road by the hotel’s heavy security barriers. The street was littered with debris and broken branches from roadside trees and acrid smoke drifted in the air.

The hotel has been bombed twice before, the last time was on January 26, 2007 when the Indian High Commissioner was to host a Republic Day reception there.

But the Saturday evening blast was the most serious in the Pakistani capital since the country joined the US-led campaign against militancy in late 2001.

A Reuters witness said he could see fires in at least two places in the hotel and at least 20 cars parked on the street outside had been destroyed.

Television showed bodies being carried away.

Jinxed?

The attack came soon after Pakistan’s new president, Asif Ali Zardari, had made his first address to a joint session of parliament, pledging that Pakistan would not tolerate any infringement of its territory in the name of the fight against militants.

Zardari is close to the United States and had earlier promised to maintain nuclear-armed Pakistan’s commitment to the US-led “war on terrorism”, even though it is deeply unpopular.

(With inputs from AP, Reuters and CNN-IBN)

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