Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Eleven Believed Killed in Pearl Continental Hotel Attack

Via Yahoo! News (AP) -

Suicide attackers shot their way past guards and set off a massive blast Tuesday outside a luxury hotel where foreigners and well-to-do Pakistanis mixed, killing at least 11 people and wounding 70, officials said. The bombers struck the Pearl Continental Hotel at about 10 p.m., when nightlife was still in swing. The attack reduced a section of the hotel to concrete rubble and twisted steel and left a huge crater in a parking lot.

The blast came a week after Taliban leaders warned they would carry out major attacks in large cities in retaliation for an army offensive to reclaim the nearby Swat Valley region from the militants. No claim surfaced immediately for the bombing in Peshawar, the northwest's largest city with about 2.2 million people.


Police official Liaqat Ali said witnesses gave vivid accounts of how the bombers carried out their attack.

Three men in a pickup truck approached the hotel's main gate, opened fire at security guards, drove inside and detonated the bomb close to the building, Ali said. A senior police officer, Shafqatullah Malik, estimated it contained more than half a ton of explosives.


In Washington, two senior U.S. officials said the State Department had been in negotiations with the hotel's owners to either purchase or sign a long-term lease to the facility to house a new American consulate in Peshawar. The officials said they were not aware of any sign that U.S. interest in the compound had played a role in its being targeted.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the negotiations were not public and had not been completed. They said no immediate decision had been made on whether to go ahead with plans to base the consulate on the hotel grounds.

Lou Fintor, spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, said there were no immediate reports of American casualties.


The U.N. identified a staff member as among the dead: Aleksandar Vorkapic, 44, an information technology specialist from Belgrade, Serbia, who was part of an emergency team from the office of U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees helping with the crisis.

Peshawar district coordination officer Sahibzada Anis said the blast wounded three others working for the U.N. agency — a Briton, a Somali and a German.

Amjad Jamal, spokesman for the World Food Program in Pakistan, said more than 25 U.N. workers were staying at the hotel. He said all seven WFP workers were safe.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the "heinous terrorist attack" in "the strongest possible terms," U.N. deputy spokeswoman Marie Okabe said at U.N. headquarters in New York.

"Once again, a dedicated staff member of the United Nations is among the victims of a heinous terrorist attack which no cause can justify," Okabe said.

She said Ban was "saddened by the large numbers of dead and wounded" and extends his condolences to the families of the victims and to the government and people of Pakistan.

Dr. Khizar Hayat at Lady Reading Hospital said the hospital received some 70 wounded people, with at least nine in critical condition.


(Photo credit to AFP/Getty Images)

No comments:

Post a Comment