11 dead, 34 injured in blast at Pakistan hotel

June 10th, 2009 - 2:24 am ICT by IANS  

Taliban Peshawar, June 10 (DPA) At least 11 people were killed and 34 injured Tuesday as a huge explosion ripped through the five-star Pearl Continental Hotel in Peshawar, the capital of Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province (NWFP), according to officials.
The blast partially demolished the building, which is located near a military base and an important government building in a high-security zone.

“There are around 11 deaths but these (numbers) are not final, we are recovering more bodies,” deputy police chief of NWFP Shafqat Malik told Geo television. The official said 34 people were injured, adding that it was a car bombing.

Geo television reported a provincial minister and a member of the national parliament were among the injured.

A correspondent of DPA reported from the scene that some people were still trapped in the upper stories of the hotel building that caught fire following the blast.

“The firefighters are trying to extinguish the fire while some people can be heard calling for help from the fourth floor.”

Witness Ghulam Mohammad said that two vehicles approached the main gate of the hotel and gunmen from one vehicle opened fire at the security personnel, while the driver of the other vehicle drove into the hotel.

“After the firing that continued for around five minutes there was a huge blast,” he added.

Some foreign nationals were also injured in the blast, the city’s police chief Sifwat Ghyyur said.

The DPA correspondent on the scene said some UN vehicles were parked at the hotel were damaged in the blast.

Geo television reported - citing relief workers - that the bodies of three foreign nationals were recovered from the hotel.

The Pearl Continental Peshawar is popular with dignitaries, UN officials, and foreign journalists.

“I was at the mosque when the blast took place. There are many people lying in the mosque. There are also many people lying in the Marco Polo Hall,” a witness told the news channel.

The attacks is the latest in the series of bombings Taliban militants have carried out to avenge the ongoing military offensive in NWFP’s Swat valley and three neighbouring districts.

The military launched the Swat operation in April after the rebels failed to observe the terms of a peace deal. Washington and other western countries have cheered the all-out military offensive in Swat.

NWFP’s senior minister Bashir Bilour said such “atrocious actions” will not deter his government from eliminating “terrorists and extremists”.

“We will continue this operation unless the terrorism ends,” he said.



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