Breaking News: 8:32 p.m.
A suicide bomber traveling in a truck has blown himself outside Marriott Hotel, Islamabad. It was a massive blast and the hotel is in ruins. The television pictures show many parts of the hotel on fire. The hotel's gas pipeline has burst making the situtation worse. The bombing occured around 8:05 p.m.
You can see live pictures via GEO, DAWN and AAJ.
The current death toll is 15 with at least 50 injured. These numbers may rise as all the people inside the hotel have not yet been accounted for.
The Islamabad Marriott is an upscale hotel that is the residence of choice for foreign travellers as well as rich local business travelers.
Geo is reporting that sources are claiming that they had reports that the Parliament House or
the Prime Minister's House was being targeted. Not sure if this blast is related or if that's a different threat.
Update - 8:57 p.m.
The Police and Fire Services officials are evacuating Marriott as they fear that the structure is about to collapse. The entire building is on fire. People are still trapped in the building.
The truck struck the security check post and appears to have been completely filled with explosives. A security official has stated that this is the most powerful bomb in Pakistani history.
Official death toll is now 24. That's just gone to 25.
Update - 9:05 p.m.
American and other foreign embassy officials have reached the scene. The hotel appears was near full occupancy. A large number of foreigners, including journalist covering Zardari's maiden speech to parliament were staying at the hotel. All the rooms in the hotel are on fire. The fire's raging.
Update - 9:18 p.m.
Interior Ministry has raised the death toll to 30. President's security adviser Rehman Malik has reached the scene. Owner of the hotel Sadruddin Hashwani is also on the scene, he's literally shaking.
The intensity of the blast can be gauged from the fact that 4 buildings around Marriott (located some way away) have been heavily damaged.
3 Americans and 1 Danish national are injured. 15 foreigners are reported to be still trapped inside.
I remember seeing the Sheraton Karachi after it was bombed a few years ago. The bombing in Islamabad is on another level. It's more reminiscent of the Oklahoma City bombings than any thing else I can recall.
Update - 9:31 p.m.
There were apparently 2 blasts, could be twin suicide blasts. First blast was aimed at the security check post, perhaps to allow the truck to head inside. The first blast did not fulfill this aim and then the truck blew up at the check post. Officials are claiming that there must have been around 400 - 500 kilograms of explosive material.
Jesus Christ, there were two kids shouting for help from one window. That room is now ablaze.
Figure for the death toll ranges from between 35 - 50; officials are claiming this may cross 100.
Update - 10:04 p.m.
Army Corps of Engineer have taken control of the operation. Trying to rescue the trapped as well as preventing the hotel from collapsing.
Official / Geo / Dawn : 40
CNN: 50 (there reporter was inside Marriott at the time.)
The government is officially laying blame on the Taliban and other militants but no mention has been made of Al - Qaeda.
4 Germans and 1 Saudi are also among the injured.
Update - 10:21 p.m.
The Danish national injured in the blast is a diplomat.
Ishaq Dar of PML(N) is asked by Dawn News if his party will offer support to the government; he says they will but then he goes on talking about the restoration of the judiciary and the reason for PML N's exit from the coalition. The Dawn News guy wants to slap him, as do I. He calms himself down, I don't but can't slap him. He asks Ishaq Dar, again, "do you not agree that the security issue must take priority over other issues?" Ishaq replies "blah blah blah judge judges judges blah blah blah."
The PML N realy needs to understand what's actually happening in the country. They either seem unwilling or unable to comprehend the crisis afflicting the country. Not only is it bad policy, it's bad politics.
Update - 10:32
The Saudi Ambassador is on the scene. Confirms that there were a number of Saudi Airline staff in the building, of which 2 are injured and at PIMS. They are still trying to locate others.
Update - 10:47
Liaquat Baloch, a Jamaat Islami leader, is being interviewed. He claims that Zardari et al are not serious about solving problems afflicting the country. He states that the entire region has been set ablaze by 'foreign forces.' Just in case we didn't get what he was saying, he elaborates that 'foreign forces are to blame.' He then lays into the U.S. and the 'army regime.' He goes on to justify the actions of local militants by saying that if Pakistanis are going to be bombed by the U.S. and their own army, they will react. The inference here being that these people were innocent to begin with.
I.G. Islamabad says that the police was on red alert, there were serious threats and major government buildings were placed under a 'red zone.' The Marriott was not in this 'red zone' protection which may be why it was targetted. He has asked for more forces from the government. The army has been asked to aid the police. The explosive used seem to be the same as used to bomb the Danish Embassy says the I.G.
There is a 15 feet deep by 30 feet wide crater at the site.
Hotels in Islamabad, including Serena and Holiday Inn, have been evacuated.
Farhatullah Babar, spokesman PPPP - "The President's visit to the U.N., New York is sxpected to go ahead as scheduled." Surely the President will reconsider?
Update - 11:00 p.m.
The truck is reported to have been sighted on the roads for a couple of hours, was apparently unable to get to its primary target.
The entire Pakistani establishment - President, PM, Armed Forces Chiefs, Parlaiment and Senate leaders were all sitting in the same room, at an Iftar hosted by the President, when the bombing took place.
Official Death Toll: 47. Injured: 200.
Hospitals officials are reporting that they are running out of blood and are asking people to step forward and donate blood.
Update - 11:19
16 Saudi nationals injured, 6 are missing.
Countrywide Red Alert declared.
The explosives used in the bombing could be closer to 1 ton (1000 kg),double the original estimate.
Update - 11:27
It's almost 4 hours since the blast. No official statement has yet been released by any high ranking officials. Kamran Khan at Geo is going on about how our leaders are cowards.,I don't really know what they can say at this moment.
Update - 11:32
7 foreigners are confirmed dead.
AAJ showed pictures of 4 white men wearing flak jackets and carrying rifles (American soldiers?). The camera moved away after about 10 seconds, none of the other channels have shown this image. The media is being asked to vacate the immediate area. I would imagine that GEO would've run with this image so they must have been ordered not to carry these pictures.