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People carry the body of a victim of the suicide attack on Peshawar's Pearl Continental hotel for burial yesterday.
Mohammad Sajjad STR
People carry the body of a victim of the suicide attack on Peshawar's Pearl Continental hotel for burial yesterday.

Hotel blast exposes lapses in security

Taliban militants in Pakistan are following up threats to attack cities in retaliation for the recent Swat operation, according to security experts.

ISLAMABAD // The suicide bombing of a five-star hotel in the north-western city of Peshawar, which killed 18 and injured more than 60, is a sign that Taliban militants are following through on threats to attack cities in retaliation for the recent Swat operation, and that measures to prevent attacks on high-profile targets are severely inadequate, according to Pakistani security experts and analysts.

Among the dead were two foreign aid workers. CCTV footage of the bombing of Peshawar's Pearl Continental hotel, released yesterday to private television networks, showed a car rushing through the hotel's security barrier, followed by a small lorry laden with explosives. In a sign of a major security lapse, the retractable electronic barrier was lowered, allowing the attackers to speed in to the car park.

One militant opened fire as the lorry made its way through the barrier before detonating the explosives. Half a tonne of explosives caused a portion of the hotel to collapse. The methods and tactics adopted by the militants suggest immaculate planning and indicate a departure from earlier attacks, in which a lone suicide bomber would hit a target, analysts say. Pakistani officials and politicians say it is almost impossible to prevent suicide bombings, but security experts dismiss this assertion.

"There is a complete paralysis of thinking. Unless you break away from this logjam, unless you bring in security professionals with a dynamic profile, things will not improve," Ikram Sehgal, a defence and security analyst based in Karachi, said in an interview. Mr Sehgal said that in the past five years only one domestic security official has been removed from his post, despite the apparent need for a radical rethinking of strategy. Analysts pointed out that there appears to be no contingency plan after guards at the entrances of major buildings and hotels are overpowered.

"Where was tier two security? And if the CCTV was at 40 feet above the ground, where were the accompanying snipers?" asked Mosharraf Zaidi, a political analyst in Islamabad. Mr Zaidi said he could not understand how security measures at hotels had not improved, especially since the strike against the Islamabad Marriott by a massive lorry bomb last year. smasood@thenational.ae

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