Saturday, September 20, 2008

Catastrophe in Islamabad

Appended below is the NYT's breaking story on today's massive bombing in Islamabad. There seem to be many more dead still inside the hotel - which, by the way, is a luxury hotel, the Marriott. You know how so many Americans tend to prefer "Western"-style hotels - so I expect that a number of Americans (and Europeans) were staying there.

You also know how so many of us, when such bombings have happened, have simply shrugged our shoulders and moved on when the victims have been Arabs, Iranians, not us . . . but if Americans are killed, there are paroxysms of outrage, newspapers publish long, heart-wrenching stories about the lives of those killed, etc. And don't think for one minute that people around the world don't notice the disparity.

You can also bet that the target was chosen because it is indeed a symbol of "Western" presence and influence; and perhaps - at least to some extent - as vengeance for the many innocent people that the US has killed since 2001 via bombs and Hellfire missiles in Afghanistan. Some Western diplomats and commentators will likely jump onto this as Pakistan's 9-11, as well as demand that the Pakistani military now fully get on board in the "war on terror" - and they may insist that if they don't, then the US will have every right to arrogate to itself the prerogative of bombing and ground incursions into Pakistan as it sees fit.

But the vast majority of Pakistanis won't be buying it.

September 20, 2008

At Least 40 Killed in Huge Explosion at Pakistan Hotel

Filed at 11:29 a.m. ET

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) -- Police say at least 40 people have died in a massive explosion that destroyed the luxury Marriott Hotel in Pakistan's capital.

Senior police official Asghar Raza Gardaizi said he fears there are dozens more dead inside.

He said that the Saturday blast, which reverberated throughout Islamabad, was caused by more than a ton of explosives.

The blast left a crater some 30 feet deep in front of the main building.

Flames poured from the windows of the hotel and rescuers ferried a stream of bloodied bodies from the gutted building.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) -- A massive truck bomb ripped through part of the heavily guarded Marriott Hotel in Pakistan's capital Saturday, killing at least 11 people and wounding 25 -- a toll expected to rise significantly.

Ahmad Latif, a senior police official, said it was one of the biggest terrorist strikes in Pakistan history.

The Marriott is a favorite place for foreigners to stay and socialize in Islamabad, despite repeated militant attacks. A security guard at the scene, Mohammad Nasir, and several witnesses said a large truck had driven toward the gate before exploding.

The blast left a vast crater, some 30 feet deep in front of the main building, where flames poured from the windows and rescuers ferried a stream of bloodied bodies from the gutted building.

Mohammad Sultan, a hotel employee, said he was in the lobby when something exploded, he fell down and everything temporarily went dark.

''I don't understand what it was, but it was like the world is finished,'' he said.

An Associated Press reporter counted at least nine bodies scattered at the scene. Scores of people, including foreigners, were running out -- some of them stained with blood. At a hospital where many of the casualties were taken, official Raja Ejaz said at least two people had died and 25 were wounded.

Ambulances rushed to the area, where a fire burned, smoke hovered and the carcasses of vehicles were thrown about. Windows in buildings hundreds of yards away were shattered.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast.

But Pakistan, a U.S. ally in the war on terror, has faced a wave of militant violence in recent weeks following army-led offensives against insurgents in its border regions, though the capital has avoided most of the bloodshed.

In January 2007, a security guard blocked a suicide bomber who triggered a blast just outside the Marriott, killing the guard and wounding seven other people.


Associated Press Writer Zarar Khan contributed to this report.

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