x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Deadly blast hits Pakistan hotel

A massive explosion tears through part of a Marriott Hotel in Islamabad, killing at least 40 people and wounding at least 100 more.

Pakistani policemen and onlookers gather as a cloud of smoke billows from the burning Marriott hotel following a powerful bomb blast in Islamabad on Sept 20 2008.
Pakistani policemen and onlookers gather as a cloud of smoke billows from the burning Marriott hotel following a powerful bomb blast in Islamabad on Sept 20 2008.

ISLAMABAD // A huge explosion ripped through part of the heavily guarded Marriott Hotel in Pakistan's capital today, killing at least 40 people and wounding at least 100 more, police say. "A car laden with explosives rammed the gate at the Marriott and so far we have brought out 40 dead bodies, but the number could well be higher," said the police chief Asghar Raza Gardazi. He also said he fears "there are dozens more dead inside". Mr Gardazi said today's blast, which reverberated throughout Islamabad, was caused by more than 1,000 kilograms of explosives. Bodies were strewn on the ground, and flames engulfed the front of the building as ambulances swarmed the area. Scores of people, including foreigners, were running out - some of them stained with blood.

The Marriott in Islamabad is a favourite place for foreigners to stay and socialise, and it has previously been targeted by militants. A security guard at the scene, Mohammad Nasir, said he saw a large lorry that suddenly caught fire on its front before suddenly exploding. "It was a big bang," he said. Ambulances rushed to the area, where a fire burned, smoke hovered and the carcasses of vehicles were thrown about. Windows in buildings hundreds of metres away were shattered. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast.

But Pakistan, a US ally in the war on terror, has faced a wave of militant violence in recent weeks following army-led offensives against insurgents in its border regions, though the capital has avoided most of the bloodshed. At a hospital where many of the casualties were taken, an official, Raja Ejaz, said at least two people had died and 25 were wounded. Mohammad Sultan, a hotel employee, said he was in the lobby when something exploded, he fell down and everything temporarily went dark.

"I don't understand what it was, but it was like the world is finished," he said. In January 2007, a security guard blocked a suicide bomber who triggered a blast just outside the Marriott, killing the guard and wounding seven other people. *AP and Reuters