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PC Hotel blast rises to 18

SAMAA | - Posted: Jun 10, 2009 | Last Updated: 13 years ago
SAMAA |
Posted: Jun 10, 2009 | Last Updated: 13 years ago

By Tariq Afaq and Shams Momand

PESHAWAR: The death toll in the Pearl Continental Hotel car bombing rose to 18 Wednesday after rescue workers pulled six more bodies from the rubble.

Suicide attackers shot their way past guards and set off a massive blast on Tuesday outside the luxury hotel where foreigners and well-to-do Pakistanis mixed, killing at least 18 people and wounding 70, officials said.

The bombers struck the Pearl Continental Hotel at about 10 p.m. local time (1600 GMT), when nightlife was still in swing, AP reported.

SAMAA's Shakeel Qarar reported that Americans related to a private security company were staying at the hotel. This is a company that worked in Iraq and against al Qaeda. United Nations personnel were also staying there.

The IG Special Branch told SAMAA that a double-cabin vehicle filled with 500kg of explosives was believed to be the cause of the explosion.

Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) staff are among the injured. The rooms at the front have been completely damaged.

Six people are in critical condition. A majority of the injured are hotel employees.

More than 80 parked vehicles were damaged.

New security camera video emerged in Pakistan on Wednesday, apparently showing the moments before the deadly attack.

Witnesses told SAMAA that firing was heard before the explosion. Rescue teams and the law enforcement agencies reached the spot. The power was shut down soon after the explosion, making the rescue work hard.

Sources told SAMAA that the hotel management had been given threats.

The attack reduced a section of the hotel to concrete rubble and twisted steel and left a huge crater in a parking lot.

The blast came a week after Taliban leaders warned they would carry out major attacks in large cities in retaliation for an army offensive to reclaim the nearby Swat Valley region from the militants.

No claim surfaced immediately for the bombing in Peshawar, the northwest's largest city with about 2.2 million people.

The Pearl Continental, affectionately called the “PC” by Pakistanis, overlooks a golf course and a historic fort. The ritziest hotel in the city, it is relatively well-guarded and set far back from the main road.

Witnesses gave vivid accounts of how the bombers carried out their attack.

Three men in a pickup truck approached the hotel's main gate, opened fire at security guards, drove inside and detonated the bomb close to the building.

A senior police officer estimated the truck contained more than half a ton of explosives.

The United Nations identified a staff member as among the dead: Aleksandar Vorkapic, an information technology specialist from Belgrade, Serbia, who was part of an emergency team from the office of UN High Commissioner for Refugees helping with the crisis.

Peshawar district coordination officer Sahibzada Anis said the blast wounded three others working for the UN agency – a Briton, a Somali and a German.

A spokesman for the World Food Programme in Pakistan, said more than 25 UN workers were staying at the hotel. He said all seven WFP workers were safe.

Doctors at Lady Reading Hospital said the hospital received some 70 wounded people, with at least nine in critical condition.

Dinner was underway when the explosion took place. One senior member of the Awami National Party was there but this has yet to be confirmed. Aftab Khan Sherpao told SAMAA over the telephone that an MPA was in the hotel.

AGENCIES ADD: Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, speaking in Karachi, condemned the attack.

The chaotic scene echoed a bombing last year at Islamabad's Marriott Hotel that killed more than 50 people.

Both hotels were favoured places for foreigners and elite Pakistanis to stay and socialise, making them high-profile targets for militants despite tight security.

North-West Frontier Province Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain said the attack appeared to be very well organised.

He told The Associated Press early on Wednesday that officials were reporting 11 deaths in the blast. Other police and government officials could confirm only five dead.

An AP reporter saw six wounded foreigners being helped out of the Pearl.

Senior police official Abdul Ghafoor Afridi told AFP: “It was a bomb brought in a vehicle in the garb of hotel supplies.”

It is the seventh deadly bombing to hit the troubled city in a month, as fears grow that Taliban militants are extracting revenge for a punishing six-week military offensive against them in three northwest districts.

Just hours earlier, unidentified men attacked a mobile unit of the Rescue-15 services on Circular Road, Dera Ismail Khan on Tuesday night.

At least six policemen were injured in the hand grenade attack, near Ashyana Centre. Firing was reported after the attack. SAMAA/AGENCIES

Following is a Reuters timeline of major attacks in 2009:

Feb. 5 – At least 24 people are killed in a suspected suicide bombing near Shi'ite mosque in Dera Ghazi Khan, central Pakistan.

Feb. 20 – Suicide bomber kills 27 people and wounds 65 in an attack on a funeral procession for a Shi'ite Muslim killed a day earlier in Dera Ismail Khan town.

March 3 – Gunmen attack a bus carrying Sri Lanka's cricket team outside a Lahore stadium, killing seven people, including six policemen and a driver, and wounding six of the cricketers and a British coach.

March 27 – A suicide bomber kills 37 people when he blows himself up in a crowded mosque near the Afghan border. Among the dead are 14 policemen and paramilitary soldiers.

March 30 – Militants armed with guns and grenades storm a police training centre in Lahore killing eight recruits, wounding scores and holding off police and troops for eight hours. The attack is claimed by Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud. Four militants are killed and three arrested.

April 5 – A suicide bomber blows himself up in a religious centre for minority Shi'ite Muslims in Chakwal in central Pakistan. At least 17 people are killed and about 11 seriously wounded. The attack comes a day after a suicide attack in Islamabad killed eight paramilitary soldiers.

April 15 – A suicide car-bomber blows himself up at a security post in the northwest, killing nine policemen and three civilians.

April 18 – A suicide car-bomber rams a military convoy, killing 25 soldiers and police and two passers-by near Kohat, 190 km (120 miles) west of Islamabad.

April 25 – Twelve children who mistake a bomb for a toy are killed when it explodes as they play with it in the Low Dir district near Swat. Authorities say it is unclear whether the incident is an “act of terrorism” or an accident.

May 11 – Ten people are killed and more than a dozen wounded in a suicide car bomb attack on a security checkpost near Peshawar.

May 16, 2008 – Car packed with mortar bombs blows up in the northwestern city of Peshawar, killing 11 people, including four children passing in a school bus.

May 27 – Gunmen attack a police headquarters in the Pakistani city of Lahore, setting off a car-bomb that killed at least 24 people.

May 28 – Two bombs explode in a market in the northwe

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