Suicide bomber targets Marriott Hotel in Islamabad

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Two people were killed in a suicide bombing at a hotel in the centre of Islamabad yesterday. The Marriott Hotel, which was targetted, is a landmark in the Pakistan capital - one closely identified with Westerners. Just around the corner from the presidential palace and parliament, it is the preferred hotel of visiting diplomats and businessmen.

But for the courage of a security guard, who was killed, the death count could have been far higher. The attacks took place at 2.37pm local time, when the hotel restaurants would have been packed for lunch.

The Marriott is a regular haunt of Islamabad's small population of Western expats, because its nightclub has one of very few licensed bars in Pakistan - which is only open to foreigners. That may also have made it a target. The suicide bombing took place at the entrance to the nightclub. Witnesses described seeing a man running towards the entrance, where he was stopped by a security guard, and detonated his explosives.

An eyewitness who did not give his name told reporters: 'As I was driving, I heard a huge blast at my back. The windscreen of my car shattered. When I turned round, I saw flesh scattered on the road.'

The dead security guard was named as Mohammed Tariq. The bomber was also killed. At least seven people were injured, all of them Pakistani.

Pro-Taliban militants in the tribal areas on the border with Afghanistan last week vowed attacks in retaliation for an air strike in their territory in which at least eight people were killed. The Marriott has been targetted before, in a bombing in 2004 which wounded several people - and the US has banned its diplomats from visiting it.

Another reason the hotel may have been targetted yesterday is the Indian High Commission was holding a reception to mark India's Republic Day inside.