At least 65 people including a US national and six other foreigners were killed and scores others injured when an explosives laden vehicle was blown up at the entrance of a five star Marriot hotel situated in high security zone shaking up the Federal Capital here on Saturday evening.
Those killed include five women. 257 wounded, some of them critically were shifted to the local hospitals after the deadly explosion. The death toll is feared to rise further.
The powerful explosion caused fire in many parts of the hotel besides shattering the windowpanes of the buildings around the hotel.
According to details, a small vehicle broke through the security barrier outside the hotel before an explosives laden dumper truck was struck with the hotel causing a huge explosion.This caused the gas pipelines to burst triggering fire which engulfed the entire building of the luxury hotel.
The blast, which occurred only a few hours after conclusion of President Zardari first address to the parliament, was described as the deadliest one in Pakistan history with more than five suicide bombers riding the mini truck loaded around 1,000 kilogram explosive struck the hotel as people inside were dinning just after the Iftar.This hotel in Islamabad is a favorite place for foreigners to stay and gather, and it has previously been targeted by militants.
Ambulances rushed to the scene, where a fire also burned, smoke hovered and the carcasses of vehicles were scattered.The blast left a vast crater some 20 feet deep and 30 feet wide in front of the main building where flames leapt from the windows and rescuers ferried a stream of bloodied bodies from the gutted building.
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani was hosting an Iftar dinner at the nearby Prime Minister’s Secretariat. The event was attended by President Asif Ali Zardari and Army Chief Ashfaq Parvez Kayani. There was no reports of anyone being injured at the Prime Minister’s Secretariat.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast, and its exact cause was unclear. But Pakistan, a U.S. 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.
Suicide bombers seemed to have taken the advantage as the security officials might have lowered their guards for Iftar. The blast, which was termed as 9/11 of Pakistan by some analysts, caused a crater of over 25 feet leaving almost the entire hotel building on fire. There were some reports that no VVIP or VIP was present in the hotel.The bang of the suicide explosion was so intense that it was heard in a radius of 32 kilometers and created panic and chaos in twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi. The blast has completely wrecked the six-storey Marriott Hotel even of high security alert was issued in the Capital due to President’s address to the Parliament.
The blast ruined more than 100 vehicles parked in the hotel parking area. The road in front of the hotel was giving a site a complete destruction as the blast damaged the vehicles and trees. The ambulances of all the hospitals, Edhi Foundation, Rescue 1122 and other organisations rushed to the scene for rescue operation.
Fire engines of Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Army and Air Force were in the operation to extinguish the fire. The explosion caused damages to adjacent buildings of the hotel including multi-storey Evacuee Trust Building (ETB), Frontier and Balochistan Houses, as the rescuers recovered 5 dead bodies from ETB adjacent to the hotel. Dozens of drivers who were in vehicles outside the hotel were also injured in the incident.
The explosion and fire caused huge damage to hotel, feared to collapse at any time. Army Engineering Corps was called to take charge of the hotel to avert any more loss due to destruction of the Marriott Hotel. The inspector General of Police Islamabad, Raza Gardezi told reporters that a Shahzor truck was used in the suicide attack.
Sadruddin Hashwani, owner of the Marriott Hotel, told that more than 600 employees are working in one shift while there were more than 400 guests in different halls and rooms of the hotel at the time of the blast. He said that hotel has 310 rooms and 90 out of them were occupied by foreigners.
The security officials ignored the smaller vehicles and terrorists took advantage of this security lapse and succeeded in causing biggest explosion of Pakistan history in Marriott Hotel. This was third explosion at Marriott Hotel as previous two were of low intensity.