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Deadly blast outside Islamabad's Marriott Hotel

Text by AFP

Latest update : 2008-12-10

A bomb exploded outside of the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad's city center on Saturday, in an apparent suicide attack that killed at least 60 people and started a fire which ravaged the building.

At least 60 people were killed in a massive car bombing at the Marriott Hotel in the Pakistan capital Islamabad on Saturday and many people are trapped inside the burning building, police said.
   
Flames were seen shooting out of the hotel, a key meeting place for foreigners and one of the most carefully guarded sites in the city, after the powerful blast, which was heard from quite far away.
   
Police officials said it appeared to be a car bombing but could not confirm it had been a suicide attack. Ambulances were racing to the scene, and it was not immediately known how many people were wounded.

An officer at the scene said many people were still trapped in the hotel, which caught fire after the bombing on Saturday night.
   
The bomb was so powerful that it blew out windows in buildings about one kilometre (a half-mile) away. An AFP photographer saw at least 20 mutilated bodies amid the carnage at the scene.
   
The attack came just hours after new President Asif Ali Zardari, who faces a tough challenge in reining in a wave of Islamist militant violence, delivered his first address to parliament.
   
Pakistan, the world's only Islamic nuclear power, has faced a wave of bombings and other attacks for more than a year. Tribal areas along the Afghan border are believed to be a new stronghold for Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants.
   
Militants have been extending their sway over northwestern Pakistan and have increasingly targeted the heavily secured capital.
   
Zardari was to meet US President George W. Bush on the sidelines of the annual debate of world leaders at the United Nations in New York next week. It was not immediately known if that trip would go ahead.
   
The Bush administration has accused Taliban Islamic militants and Al-Qaeda followers of using the unruly border areas as bases from which to direct a growing deadly insurgency in neighbouring Afghanistan.
   
Strains have emerged between Islamabad and Washington over strikes by US forces on the Pakistani tribal areas.
   
In private, US officials say that Pakistani leaders are not doing enough to flush out the militants and help stop the insurgency which has become the administration's main military headache.
   
But strikes against Pakistani territory, the tally of civilian casualties as well as reports that the US forces even conducted a ground raid into Pakistan on September 3 have fueled anti-American feeling in the country.
   
Islamabad has already protested the strikes and Pakistani army chief General Ashfaq Kayani has pledged to safeguard the country's "territorial integrity."

Date created : 2008-09-20

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