Official death toll of huge Islamabad hotel blast is 52, including Czech ambassador

Many people were trapped in rooms of the burning five-star Marriott Hotel in the Pakistan capital after a suicide bomber detonated a large truck loaded with a ton of explosives at the hotel gate. The official death toll is 52, including the Czech ambassador, and scores of injured.
The Marriott, frequented by foreigner and local VIPs and the hotel of choice for American officials, was devastated.
The ceiling of the banqueting hall crashed down on 500 guests at the Ramadan evening meal. The Pakistani president and prime minister were to have attended, but changed their plans. The blast left a huge crater outside the US-owned hotel, which has been attacked by terrorists twice before, and destroyed dozens of cars and neighboring buildings.
According to some sources, a group of CIA officers just arrived in Islamabad may have been targeted. The Pakistani Taliban was reported to have claimed responsibility for the attack which debkafile‘s counter-terror sources note came four days after its partner, al Qaeda, attacked the US embassy in Sanaa, killing seventeen people.
Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff was quoted by the LA Times Saturday as reporting that US military advisers would arrive in Islamabad within weeks to train the Pakistan army in counterinsurgency warfare.
A few hours earlier and half a mile away from the Marriott, new Pakistan president Asif Ali Zardari pledged to fight terrorism in his first address to parliament. While the ongoing military campaign against Taliban and al Qaeda in the tribal region is unpopular, Zardari was applauded when he declared Pakistan would not tolerate violations of its sovereignty by “any power” – a reference to the recent US cross-border raids and missile attacks against their sanctuaries in Pakistani tribal lands.
In North Waziristan, at least eight Pakistani soldiers were killed in a suicide attack on their military convoy Saturday. A large number of Arab and Central Asian fighters linked to al Qaeda are reported to be hiding near the town of Mir Ali, the site of Saturday’s attack.

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