The suicide bomb attack that killed 53 people, including the Czech ambassador, at Marriott Hotel on Saturday bore the hallmarks of an operation by Al-Qaida or one of its affiliates, Pakistani and US intelligence officers said yesterday.
Investigators searching the burnt building in Pakistan's capital found more charred bodies the morning after the blast, which ignited a blaze that swept through the hotel, part of a US-based chain and a favorite haunt of diplomats and rich Pakistanis.
Four foreigners, including Czech ambassador Ivo Zdarek, his Vietnamese partner and two Americans, were killed, Pakistan's Interior Ministry said. Eleven of the 266 injured are foreigners, and a Danish diplomat is missing. Zdarek had moved from Vietnam about a month ago, and was staying at the hotel.
Internal security in Pakistan, a country vital to the war against Al-Qaida and other Islamist groups, has deteriorated over the past two years.
"The sophistication of the attack indicates it's the work of Al-Qaida," a Pakistani intelligence officer said.
The Pakistani army is in the midst of an offensive against Al-Qaida and Taliban fighters in the Bajaur region on the Afghan border, while the US has intensified attacks on militants on the Pakistani side of the border.
Militants have launched bomb attacks, mostly on security forces in northwest Pakistan, in retaliation.
"They're giving a very clear, unambiguous message that if the government pursues these policies, this is what they will do in response," said Talat Masood, a retired general and analyst.
Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi sent a condolence message to his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi. He condemned the suicide bomb attack and mourned the loss of lives.
A civilian government led by Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani took office in Pakistan six months ago, after nearly nine years of president Pervez Musharraf's rule. But it is faced with the mounting militant challenge and an economy on the verge of collapse.
"They (Al-Qaida and Taliban militants) want to destabilize the country," Gilani said yesterday. "They want to destroy the country's economy."
Saturday's attack came hours after new President Asif Ali Zardari, widower of assassinated former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, addressed the parliament for the first time. The parliament building, where he called for terrorism to be rooted out, is just a few hundred meters from the Marriott.
The tightly guarded hotel was engulfed in flames for hours after the blast. Zardari went on television to address the country after the attack and said the bombing was cowardly.
"This is an epidemic, a cancer in Pakistan, which we will root out," he said. "We will not be afraid of these cowards."
The Interior Ministry said the truck was packed with 600 kg of explosives, including artillery shells, mortars and shrapnel.
The blast left a crater 7.3-m deep and 18-m wide, ministry official Rehman Malik said. He showed security camera footage from the front of the hotel, which had been bombed twice before. The footage showed a truck trying unsuccessfully to force its way through security barriers.
A small blast could be seen going off in the truck, apparently as the bomber blew himself up with a grenade, which started a fire. Minutes later, as a guard was trying to put out the fire with an extinguisher, the truck blew up.
Flames and smoke poured out of the 290-room, five-story hotel.
Survivors said hotel security staff had warned guests to move to the back of the building just before the bomb went off, and most people managed to flee from the fire before it spread.
Malik declined to speculate who was behind the attack but suggested the investigation would end up pointing toward Al-Qaida and Taliban militants based in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) on the Afghan border.
Zardari, who won a presidential election this month, left for the US yesterday and is scheduled to meet President George W. Bush in New York tomorrow before attending the UN General Assembly.
1. How many people were injured in the blast?
2. What did Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi do?
3. Why have militants carried out the attack?
2. He sent a condolence message to his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi. He condemned the suicide bomb attack and mourned the loss of lives.
3. The Pakistani army is in the midst of an offensive against Al-Qaida and Taliban fighters in the Bajaur region on the Afghan border, while the US has intensified attacks on militants on the Pakistani side of the border.
（英语点津 Helen 编辑）
About the broadcaster:
Cameron Broadhurst is a print journalist from New Zealand. He has worked in news and features reporting in New Zealand and Indonesia, and also has experience in documentary and film production. He is a copy editor in the BizChina section of China Daily Website.