Blast at 5-star hotel kills 11 in Pak

Four to five gunmen drove into the compound of the Pearl Continental Hotel and fired indiscriminately before detonating the vehicle packed with explosives at about 8.30 pm, witnesses said.

The rear of the hotel collapsed due to the impact of the powerful explosion which was heard from several kilometres away. The hotel’s lobby, including several shops, was completely destroyed.

Police officials told reporters that 11 people were killed in the attack. Unconfirmed reports said three of the dead were foreigners but there was no official word on this.
One body was found on the fourth floor of the hotel, which is frequented by foreigners.
About 55 people, including several foreigners, were injured. The blast, which created a massive crater, destroyed about 30 vehicles in the hotel’s parking lot and damaged a nearby mosque.

No group claimed responsibility for the attack, which came on a day when the Pakistani security forces destroyed the headquarters of Taliban leader Maulana Fazlullah in the Swat valley.

The gunmen, reportedly wearing uniforms of security personnel, entered the hotel’s compound from the rear in two vehicles.

The hotel’s guards, who retaliated after the gunmen opened fire, failed to prevent the explosion. Police officials said about 500 kg of explosives were used in the attack.
Rescue workers and fire fighters used ladders to access the building after the rear of the hotel and stairways collapsed. Officials said some persons could still be buried under the rubble.

Security agencies blocked all roads leading to the hotel after the blast. TV channels beamed footage of the mangled remains of vehicles and people in blood-stained clothes being rushed out of the hotel.

Reports said a provincial minister and a senator were among the injured.
Police officials said there were similarities between the attack on the Pearl Continental and the May 27 assault on the office of the ISI in Lahore.

Thick black smoke rose into the sky after the explosion as officials rushed several foreigners staying in the hotel out of the building and shifted them to safer locations.
The Pearl Continental is located near the official residences of the Corps Commander of Peshawar, senior military officers and the police chief of the North West Frontier Province.
Strict security arrangements were put in place in the area and all cars were being checked on the road leading to the Pearl Continental and at the hotel.

The hotel belongs to Pakistani tycoon Sadruddin Hashwani, who also owns the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad that was attacked by a suicide bomber last year.Nearly 60 people, including two US Marines, were killed in that attack.A recent report in the western media said the US State Department had plans to purchase the Pearl Continental for use as the consulate in Peshawar. The Pearl Continental is Peshawar's only five-star hotel and is set in its own expansive grounds.

No group claimed responsibility for the attack though officials have blamed the Pakistani Taliban for a series of bombings and suicide attacks that have occurred across the country since the army launched operations against militants in Swat and nearby areas last month.Militants targeted the offices of police and the Inter-Services Intelligence agency in Lahore on May 27.Suicide attackers have also struck in Peshawar, Dera Ismail Khan and Islamabad in the past few days.

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