Bomb at luxury hotel in Pakistan kills at least 5

Suicide attackers detonated a truck bomb tonight outside a luxury hotel in Peshawar that U.S. officials were in negotiations to make into an American consulate, officials said. The attack killed at least five people and wounded dozens more.

The motive for the assault was not clear, and two U.S. officials in Washington said they were not aware of any signs that the U.S. interest in the compound had played a role in its being targeted.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack in the largest city in Pakistan's restive northwest, but it fit the pattern of recent attacks the Taliban said it launched in retaliation for a military campaign against militants in the Swat Valley region.

Television footage showed part of the Pearl Continental Hotel had been demolished in the blast, reduced to concrete rubble and twisted steel. The scene was pandemonium, with armed police rushing around and Pakistani men standing by looking stunned. One man held a bloodied rag to his head.

A large crater was blasted into the ground.

An AP reporter saw six foreigners being helped out of the hotel with injuries, including at least two with bandages around their heads.

Peshawar district coordination officer Sahibzada Anis said one foreigner was among the dead, and identified him as a Serbian national working for the UNHCR. He said a Briton, a Somalian and a German were among those injured.

UNHCR spokesman Ron Redmond in Geneva said a staff member from the group was among the casualties, but declined to give any further details because the person's family was yet to be informed.

Amjad Jamal, spokesman for the World Food Program in Pakistan, said more than 25 U.N. workers were staying at the hotel when the attack occurred. He said all seven WFP workers were safe, but he could not speak for other U.N. agencies.

Witnesses described three men riding in a truck approaching the main gate of the hotel and opening fire at security guards as they entered the gates, police official Liaqat Ali said.

Saleem Khan, a hotel security guard who was wounded in the attack, said at a nearby hospital: "They started firing on our security guards; we started firing on them after that. They reached near the building and then blew up the vehicle."

The method matched that of a May 27 attack on buildings belonging to police and a regional headquarters of Pakistan's top intelligence agency in the eastern city of Lahore, for which the Taliban claimed responsibility. In that attack, a small group opened fire on security guards to get through a guard post and then detonated an explosive-laden van.

Sahibzada Anis, a top government official in Peshawar, a teeming city of 2.2 million, said at least five people were killed in Tuesday's attack and 70 wounded people were taken to hospitals.

An injured man, Jawad Chaudhry, said he was in his room on the ground floor when he heard gunshots and then a big bang.

"The floor under my feet shook. I thought the roof was falling on me. I ran out. I saw everybody running in panic," he said. "There was blood and pieces of glass everywhere."

He said he saw several people lying on the floor with wounds, and some of them seemed to be unconscious.

Jamal Khan, a chef at the hotel, blundered out, covered in dust and his apron spattered with blood.

"I was busy as usual cooking when I heard a deafening bang," he said. "I tumbled and hit a wall. I do not know how I managed to come out. I just heard people crying in pain and crying for help."

The Pearl Continental, affectionately called the "PC" by Pakistanis, is relatively well-guarded and set far back from the main road and overlooking a golf course and a historic fort. It is located just over a mile (two kilometers) from the city's airport.

Parking in front of the structure is heavily restricted, and to get to the front doors of the building, a car has to undergo security checks and travel around concrete and metal barriers.

The hotel is a favorite place for foreigners and elite Pakistanis to stay and socialize, making it a high-profile target for militants.

A senior police officer, Shafqatullah Malik, said initial calculations suggested the blast was caused by more than half a ton (500 kilograms) of explosive such RDX, a powerful industrial and military explosive.

Last year, a massive bombing at Islamabad's Marriott Hotel killed more than 50 people and wounded dozens, rattling the nation.

Farahnaz Ispahani, spokeswoman for President Asif Ali Zardari and the ruling party, condemned the attack.

"We will not bow down. We will not be cowed by these people," she said. "We will root them out. We will fight them and we will win. This is Pakistan's unity and integrity that is at stake."

Lou Fintor, spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, said all diplomatic personnel were accounted for. "At this point we have no reports that any Americans were at the scene," he said.

In Washington, two senior U.S. officials said the State Department had been in negotiations with the hotel's owners to either purchase the facility or sign a long-term lease there to house a new American consulate in Peshawar. The officials said they were not aware of any sign that U.S. interest in the compound had played a role in its being targeted.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the negotiations were not public and had not been completed. They said no immediate decision had been made on whether to go ahead with plans to base the consulate on the hotel grounds.

Northwest provincial information minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain said the attack was likely in retaliation for the offensive against the Taliban in Swat, which the military says it is winning.

The offensive and surrounding districts began in late April, and so far has been broadly supported by the public.

Suggested Topics
News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Sport
Chelsea are interested in loaning out Romelu Lukaku to Everton again next season
sport
News
Robyn Lawley
people
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
people
News
i100
Life and Style
Phones will be able to monitor your health, from blood pressure to heart rate, and even book a doctor’s appointment for you
techCould our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?
News
people
Extras
indybest
Sport
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
Life and Style
tech'World's first man-made leaves' could use photosynthesis to help astronauts breathe
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Investment Accounting Change Manager

£600 - £700 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Investment Accounting Change...

Microsoft Dynamics AX Functional Consultant

£65000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: A rare opportun...

Tax Solicitor

£40000 - £70000 per annum + EXCELLENT: Austen Lloyd: Tax Solicitor An excel...

Microsoft Dynamics AX Support Analyst

£45000 - £50000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: This is an exce...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series