Islamabad blast toll rises to 53September 21st, 2008 - 7:37 pm ICT by IANS
Islamabad, Sep 21 (IANS) At least 53 people, including the ambassador of the Czech Republic, were killed and 266 others, including 11 foreigners, were injured in the suicide bombing of the Marriott Hotel here Saturday, a top Pakistani official said Sunday.”I confirm 53 deaths and 266 injured in the sad incident which is the country’s worst ever terror attack,” Rehman Malik, advisor to the prime minister on internal affairs, told reporters in a press conference, a day after a truck bomb slammed into the five-star Marriott Hotel, the social hub of Islamabad’s elite.
Ivo Zdarek, the ambassador of the Czech Republic, and a colleague of his were also killed in the attack, as were two Americans.
Malik said the injured include 11 foreigners from the US, Britain, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and Afghanistan.
He said the investigations are under way and it would be premature to fix responsibility at this stage. But “let me tell you that all roads lead to South Waziristan” where Taliban and Al Qaeda militants are active, the advisor added.
He said that the government had been receiving “sketchy” information regarding terrorist activities.
“We caught two suicide attackers last week and we had information that terrorists will strike in Islamabad. We raised the security ahead of the president’s address (to a joint sitting of parliament Saturday).”
Malik said it was a targeted attack by a suicide bomber, who used a six-wheeled dumper meant to carry construction material.
The vehicle arrived at the main entrance of the hotel and the driver wanted to enter the hotel by breaking the barrier but it could not. Soon there was a small blast and the front part of the truck caught fire even as the driver was killed, Malik said.
“They had placed some construction material on it (the truck) and it could not be checked,” he said adding that experts say the terrorists used RDX and TNT explosives.
“They used high-quality explosives. If the bomber had managed to reach the lobby of the hotel by breaking the glass wall, it could have led to much more damage,” Malik said.
According to the official, as the hotel caught fire, the temperature inside rose to 400 Celsius in less than an hour and this was the reason why rescue operations could not be carried out immediately.
Malik replied in the negative when asked if Pakistan would accept the US offer of help in the investigations. “We have our own experts and we trust them.”
He said it was difficult to say who was behind the attack. “I promise to produce handlers and people behind the blast in front of the press in next few days. Please give us some time,” said Malik.
Replying to a question, he said there might have been US marines in the hotel but it was difficult to say whether they were the target.
He said the investigative agencies had got hold of the footage of CCTV cameras and it would be released to the media in due course. “We have some other vital information which I cannot share with you,” said Malik.
He also requested a section of the Pakistani media not to glorify terrorists. “Tell me why don’t you people condemn militants? I request you in the name of god to avoid glorification of terrorists.”
In this context, he gave the example of the Indian media. “The media there does not show anything which is against the national interest.
“I will request you to follow the same spirit and do not glorify the terrorists. Do not show their live press conferences and do not air their interviews,” Malik said.