» This Story:Read +|Watch +| Comments

Blast Kills Dozens in Pakistan

At Least 250 Hurt as Suicide Bomber Detonates Truck Outside Islamabad Hotel

Discussion Policy
Comments that include profanity or personal attacks or other inappropriate comments or material will be removed from the site. Additionally, entries that are unsigned or contain "signatures" by someone other than the actual author will be removed. Finally, we will take steps to block users who violate any of our posting standards, terms of use or privacy policies or any other policies governing this site. Please review the full rules governing commentaries and discussions. You are fully responsible for the content that you post.
Washington Post Foreign Service
Sunday, September 21, 2008; Page A01

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Sept. 20 -- A massive suicide truck bomb ripped through a luxury hotel in the Pakistani capital Saturday night, killing at least 60 people and wounding more than 250 as the building was engulfed in flames, officials said.

This Story

Witnesses and officials said the bomber drove up to one side of the heavily guarded hotel and detonated more than a ton of explosives, leaving a 30-foot-deep crater.

Television footage of the Islamabad Marriott Hotel, located just blocks from major government buildings, showed smoke billowing and flames leaping from windows as bloodied survivors staggered out of the lobby.

Police said that many people had been trapped inside and that the death toll would probably rise. Officials said some of the victims were foreigners, including at least one American. Marriott said in a statement that several hotel security guards who had gone out to examine the truck were among the dead.

The bombing, one of the deadliest attacks ever in Pakistan, occurred just hours after the new president of this nation of 160 million delivered his first speech to Parliament and vowed to free Pakistan from the "shackles of terrorism."

Asif Ali Zardari and his government face a rapidly growing threat from Islamist extremists, especially in the northwest border regions near Afghanistan. The Pakistani army has recently staged several major military operations in that area, and extremist groups have vowed to retaliate.

"This is terrorism, and we have to fight it together as a nation," Interior Minister Rehman Malik told reporters at a hospital where dozens of wounded hotel guests were taken. He said officials had been warned of the possibility of militant attacks timed to coincide with Zardari's address.

Analysts also said militant leaders wanted to send a warning to Zardari, who faces strong U.S. pressure to crack down on Islamist extremists but domestic criticism from those who see him as too willing to do Washington's bidding.

Pakistan and the United States are major allies in the war against terrorism, but in the past several weeks, tension has grown between them over the U.S. military's cross-border raids in pursuit of al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters.

President Bush and Zardari are scheduled to meet next week during a U.N. session in New York.

At the time of the attack, Zardari and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani were attending a dinner at the premier's official residence several blocks away. One guest, lawmaker Saud Majid, said the diners heard a huge explosion and "felt the ground shaking under our feet." No one at the dinner was injured.

In a statement released by the government, Zardari and Gillani strongly condemned the bombing, expressed shock and grief over the loss of life and said the perpetrators would be brought to justice. They appealed to the public to remain calm.


CONTINUED     1        >

» This Story:Read +|Watch +| Comments

More Asia Coverage

Foreign Policy

Foreign Policy - China News

The latest on China from our partners at FP magazine.

facebook

Connect Online

Share and comment on Post world news on Facebook and Twitter.

North Korean Prison Camps

North Korean Prison Camps

Interactive map of five major prison camps in the country.

© 2008 The Washington Post Company