Huge bomb hits heart of Islamabad

September 20, 2008

Scene of destruction outside Marriott Hotel

A suicide truck bomber hit the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad on Saturday, killing at least 40 people, wounding nearly 250 and starting a huge fire.

The explosion came hours after President Asif Ali Zardari made his first address to parliament a few hundred metres away, calling for terrorism to be rooted out.

Defence analyst Talaat Massood said that militants, who had launched a string of bombings in retaliation for attacks on them, were giving an “unambiguous message that, if the government pursues these policies, this is what we will do in response”.

“They are saying ‘We can strike anywhere, at any time, regardless of how good you think your security is’ … They are are also giving a message to the people of Pakistan: ‘Your government and army are allowing the Americans to attack our territory’.”

It was the biggest attack in Islamabad since Pakistan signed up to help the Americans in their campaign against al Qaeda and the Taliban in 2001. But was it the size of the blast, the death toll and the live television footage of the Marriott in flames that prompted one analyst to call it the “9/11 of Pakistan”? Or was there an even darker meaning to it; that this attack might mark a turning point that will send Pakistan in unpredictable directions that no one can yet foresee?

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