Suicide attack on Pakistani hotel Wednesday, Jun 10 2009 

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A suicide bomb attack on a luxury hotel in the north-west Pakistani city of Peshawar, has killed 15 people and injured at least 60.

Gunmen stormed the outer security barrier at the Pearl Continental Hotel before blowing up a vehicle containing, police say, 500kg of explosives. One foreign citizen – a UN employee – was killed and several were injured. A series of bombs have hit cities including Peshawar since a government crackdown on Taliban militants.

Peshawar, the main city in the country’s north-west, is not far from the Swat valley, where the government offensive has been concentrated. Pakistani Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani swiftly condemned the attack but the blast hardly comes as a surprise, says the BBC’s Chris Morris, in Islamabad.

While there was no immediate claim of responsibility for Tuesday night’s attack on what is the most prominent hotel in Peshawar, our correspondent says most people will assume it to be the work of the Taliban. A symbol of Peshawar’s contact with the rest of the world, a place where government officials and foreign dignitaries are accustomed to staying, has been attacked, he adds.The attack killed a Serbian UN refugee agency worker and the injured include a British man and a German national, Peshawar district coordination officer Sahibzada Anis said.

At least a dozen UN employees were staying at the hotel at the time of the explosion.UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon spoke of “a heinous terrorist attack which no cause can justify”.

ANALYSIS

Jill McGivering, BBC News

The PC is a well-known landmark in Peshawar. Often used by foreigners but also by Pakistani officials and businessmen, it is known for good Western as well as local food and 5-star service. All factors which may have contributed to its becoming a target.When I visited recently, there was a whole series of security checks. First of vehicles, as they drove in, past heavy concrete barriers. Then of people, screened by metal detectors and bag searches.

But suicide bombers and gunmen are hard to stop. There are clear echoes of the devastating assault on the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad last September. Security in Peshawar has worsened dramatically in the last year. Many of those who can afford to move have taken their families to Islamabad or beyond – abandoning a city now becoming consumed by fear and violence.

Iran: Many die in Zahedan mosque bombing Friday, May 29 2009 

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The bomb detonated during evening prayers in the mosque


A bomb in a mosque in south-east Iran has killed at least 19 people and injured 60, the governor of Sistan-Baluchestan province said.

The explosion happened in Zahedan, the provincial capital, at the time of evening prayer, Ali Mohammad Azad told Iranian state TV. He said “terrorists”, who had planned to detonate more bombs, were arrested. The province is often the scene of lawlessness, including clashes between police and drug dealers or militants.
Zahedan is a mainly Sunni Muslim city in a mostly Shia country.

‘Suicide attack’

Part of the Amir al-Mohini mosque was destroyed, the official news agency Irna reported. Rescue teams were taking out the bodies of the dead and injured. “It was a terrorist attack and the bomb was exploded by a terrorist,” Mr Azad said, according to Irna, adding that members of a terrorist group had been arrested. Mr Azad said “bandits and terrorists intended to disturb the order in the province before the election considering the insecurity in the eastern neighbouring countries”.

Although it occurred in a remote region, the explosion comes at a time of heightened political sensitivity nationally, with just over two weeks before the first round of the presidential election . Fars news agency quoted witnesses saying the incident had been a suicide attack, and that a second bomb had been defused near the mosque. The reports could not be verified. Thursday was a public holiday marking the death of the Prophet Muhammad’s daughter, Fatima.

Drugs trade

Sistan-Baluchestan is one of the most deprived regions in Iran. Its location on the borders of both Afghanistan and Pakistan make it a key route in the drugs trade. Despite Iran’s best efforts, a huge proportion of the world’s opiates, such as heroin and morphine, are smuggled by heavily armed drugs gangs, often in large convoys. There are also a number of militants in the area, many of them with links to the drugs gangs, and clashes with the security forces are common.

Two years ago at least 11 people, including members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, were killed by a bomb in Zahedan. Foreigners are strongly advised to avoid the area, and a recent visit by a number of diplomats was accompanied by extremely heavy security, says the BBC’s John Leyne in Tehran. The insurgency is linked with the area’s large Sunni population – at odds with Iran’s Shia-led government. But the Iranian government also accuses the US and Britain of supporting the militants.