Bush, Pakistan president meet at UN Tuesday in shadow of Marriot blast
Earlier Tuesday, Sept. 23, Pakistan security forces killed 10 insurgents in the Bajur region, where some believe Osama bin Laden and other al Qaeda leaders are hiding. An unknown number of Pakistani troops were wounded.
US commanders complain Islamabad is not doing enough to reduce the cross-border violence in Afghanistan from the tribal areas and have stepped up their cross-border attacks.
Ahead of his meeting with President George Bush at the UN General Assembly opening Tuesday, Sept. 22, new Pakistani president Asif Ali Zardari criticized US incursions into sovereign areas of Pakistan. Monday, Pakistani military gunfire drove back to Afghanistan two US helicopters in operation against terrorist hideouts in the tribal borderlands.
The official death toll of 53 plus more than 200 injured from the suicide attack at the Islamabad Marriot Saturday, Sept. 20, is expected to climb as many are still missing. Rescue workers are still pulling bodies out of rooms blackened by the huge fire that enveloped the five-star hotel.
Most of the victims were Pakistani.
Two US state department employees and two US defense department service members were among the dead, in addition to the Czech ambassador to Pakistan, one Vietnamese and another American. A US and Danish intelligence officer are among the missing.
The suicide bomber detonated a six-wheeler truck at the hotel’s security barrier, gutting the hotel popular with foreigners and local VIPs. It was packed with 600 kilos of explosives admixed with aluminium nitrate powder to ensure the fire spread to all of its five stories. It left a crater 10 meters deep and 35 meters wide. Authorities in Islamabad attribute the atrocity to al Qaeda in collusion with its ally, Taliban.
Amid the climate of fear in the capital, British Airways has suspended all flights to Pakistan indefinitely. The millions of expatriates living in the United Kingdom and their relatives in Pakistan will have to cut back on their frequent family trips.