Al-Qaida, Pakistani Taliban Suspected In Bombing
LIANE HANSEN, host:
More grim details are emerging about yesterday's suicide truck bombing at the Marriott Hotel in Pakistan's capital, Islamabad. Officials say the death toll is now above 50, with hundreds injured. Among the dead are at least two Americans, one German, one Vietnamese, and the Czech ambassador to Pakistan. The bomb caused a huge fire in the hotel. Investigators suspect al-Qaeda. NPR's Philip Reeves reports.
PHILIP REEVES: Clearing up is going on across Islamabad. The truck bomb was so large it destroyed the glass front of this bank nearly a mile from the Marriott. At the hotel itself, smoke is this morning still wafting through the charred windows. It's a five-storey building, one of only two five-star hotels in the city, and the favorite haunt for the Pakistani elite, Western journalists, and diplomats. Exhausted rescue workers are still searching for bodies today. At the hospitals, survivors give differing accounts of what happened.
Mr. IFTIKA KAHN(ph): (Urdu spoken)
REEVES: Iftika Kahn says he heard shooting before being knocked off his feet by the massive blast outside the hotel gates. Some of the security guards died in front of him. By the time the Marriott caught fire, he was out cold. Security camera footage released by the authorities today shows a dumper truck pulling up at the Marriott's security barriers. The guards pile out of their gatehouse and run in panic from the area. There appears to be a small explosion. The truck begins to smoke, then catches fire. Some guards return, one tries to douse the flames. It's some minutes before the truck blows up, setting fire to the hotel. Pakistan's government set up an investigation team to find out how the attack happened. Why it happened is a question for which many Pakistanis already have an answer.
They believe this was a counterattack by the Taliban or al-Qaeda for the war Pakistani and U.S. forces are waging in the country's northwest, Pakistan's armies battling militants in Bajaur at the northern end of the border tribal belt and in Swat Valley. It's using fighter jets, helicopters, and heavy artillery. Hundreds of Pakistanis have died. The U.S. has been firing missiles at targets in Waziristan, a haven for militants crossing into nearby Afghanistan. This month, there was a huge outcry when American commandos raided a Pakistani village, killing civilians.
(Soundbite of Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari's TV address in Urdu)
REEVES: After yesterday's bomb, Pakistan's new president, Asif Ali Zardari, made a nationwide TV address. He vowed not to back down in the fight against terrorism and appealed for people to unite in that battle. But there is no unity in Pakistan. For some, the Marriott bombing confirms that their country faces a growing threat from violent, Islamic extremists seeking to impose their own hard-line version of Islamic law. They think Pakistan must fight its own war against them. But more seemed convinced that such attacks will stop once Pakistan stops supporting America's war on terror. Philip Reeves, NPR News, Islamabad.
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