Terrorists fired at guards before storming hotel's compound

The attackers, who drove up to the luxury hotel Pearl Continental's gate in a white car and a mini truck shortly before 10.30 pm last night, opened fire after guards opened the gate and lowered a concrete barrier.

The car and the truck then drove at high speed towards the parking lot of the hotel. The CCTV footage, aired by Geo News channel, showed a flash caused by a massive explosion that followed minutes later and plumes of smoke rising into the air.

Police officials said at least five terrorists were involved in the attack. About 500 kg of explosives packed in the truck was set off by a suicide bomber, they said. A section of the hotel collapsed following the blast.

Sixteen people, including three foreigners, were killed and over 50 others injured in the bombing, the latest in a series of attacks carried out by militants in retaliation for military operations against Taliban in Swat Valley.

Dozens of foreigners working for UN agencies and international relief organisations were staying in the Pearl Continental.

Bashir Ahmed Bilour, a senior minister in the North West Frontier Province government, did not rule out the possibility of an employee of the Pearl Continental being involved in the attack.

"Unless a person from the hotel was involved, it would not be possible for a vehicle (with explosives) to enter the compound. Despite security arrangements, a vehicle with 500 kg of explosives entered the area," Bilour told reporters in Peshawar.

He said it was not possible to prevent such attacks at a time when the NWFP was in a "state of war". The terrorists wanted to create fear through such attacks but the provincial government would not be cowed down, he said.

"We will fight to the last breath and we are confident that we will rid the country of terrorists," Bilour said.

No group claimed responsibility for the attack but Bilour said it was the handiwork of the Taliban.

He said it was unfortunate that foreigners who had come to join relief programmes for people displaced by the fighting in Swat were targeted in the attack

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