Deadly bomb targets hotel in Pakistani capital
Sunday, 21 September 2008

Up to 20 reported dead and dozens injured


A suspected car bomb exploded at a luxury hotel in Islamabad today, killing up to 20 people and injuring 25.

The massive blast shook the heavily guarded Marriott hotel, which is popular with foreign visitors. TV footage showed heavy damage to the building, with fires breaking out. Pakistani police said the explosion was believed to have been caused by a suicide car bomb.
Witnesses described a number of people, including foreigners, running out, some stained with blood. Ambulances rushed to the scene.
The AFP news agency said one of its photographers at the scene had counted more than 20 bodies in the aftermath of the blast. Local TV reported a death toll of at least 17, Reuters said.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast. However,
Pakistan has faced a wave of militant violence in recent weeks following army-led offensives against insurgents in its border regions linked to al-Qaida and the Taliban.
Mohammad Sultan, a hotel employee, told the Associated Press that he was in the lobby when an explosion knocked him down. "I don't understand what it was but it was like the world is finished," he said.
The attack follows a recent deterioration in military relations between the US and Pakistan, which have been close allies in the "war on terror" since the September 11 attacks, seven years ago.
The Bush administration has shown increasing impatience over what it considers Pakistan's incapacity or unwillingness to crack down on Taliban and al-Qaida fighters operating on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.
Earlier today, Pakistan's new president said that his country cannot accept violations of its sovereignty "by any power", in a clear warning to the US over recent cross-border military strikes.
Asif Ali Zardari, the widower of the assassinated former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, has faced mounting anger within the country following a series of American missile attacks and ground assaults in Pakistan's north-west tribal regions, near the Afghan border.
"We will not tolerate the violation of our sovereignty and territorial integrity by any power in the name of combating terrorism," he told the parliament in Islamabad today.
On Wednesday, at least six people were killed after an unmanned US drone aircraft fired missiles at a suspected militant hideout in a village in Pakistan's South Waziristan region. The strike came at dusk as villagers prepared to break their fast for Ramadan

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