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”.
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.