A suicide car bomber attacked the Marriott Hotel in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, on Saturday, killing at least 40 people and turning the hotel into an inferno, police said.
As flames engulfed the hotel, which is popular with foreigners, police said there were still people trapped inside.
“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,” police chief Asghar Raza Gardazi said.
Hours before the blast President Asif Ali Zardari, making his first address to parliament, a few hundred meters to the east of the hotel, said terrorism had to be rooted out.
Dozens of cars outside the hotel were destroyed and windows were shattered in buildings hundreds of meters (yards) away.
Al Qaeda-linked militants based in hideouts in the Afghan border have launched a bloody campaign of bomb attacks in retaliation for offensives by the security forces.
The hotel has been bombed twice before but the Saturday evening blast was the most serious in the Pakistani capital since the country joined the U.S.-led campaign against militancy in late 2001.