Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Breaking: Bomb Blast At P.C. Hotel Peshawar (Updated Below)

A major bomb blast has rocked Peshawar, extensively damaging the Pearl Continental Hotel - one of the city's few major hotels. The hotel was home to a large number of UN and INGO officials, as well as foreign reporters. Most of the UN officials belonged to the UN Food Program (credit: Dunya News).

It was a suicide blast. The bomb disposal squad reckons that about 500-550 kg of explosives were used which has caused a crate 8 feet deep and 25 feet wide. There were two attackers who first opened fire before driving their car into the hotel gates, which is similar to recent attacks in Lahore and Islamabad.

11 people are dead, 40 injured (Express News). (When I started this post, about 3 minutes ago, there were 5 dead. The injured include foreign women. Geo just showed an African woman being carried by emergency workers.

Around 50-60 cars have been destroyed. Part of the hotel has crumbled.

Incidentally the hotel is part of the Hashwani Group who also own the Islamabad Marriott which was the scene of a horrific bomb blast last September.

PM Gilani is having is very own post-9/11 Bush moment - he was chairing a meeting with law enforcement officials in Karachi addressing the deteriorating law and order situation in the city. He followed this up with a press conference and when asked about the bomb blast in Peshawar he replied (I'm not making this up): "I was only passed a note about the bombing during the meeting and haven't had a chance to find out anything more." (which begs the question, what the hell are you doing sitting here? You're the PM, go find out!)

Update 1:

One of the injured, a security guard, says that there were about half a dozen attackers who scaled the walls before the blast.

As is always the case many of the dead and injured were policemen and security guards. One of the injured is a Nigerian man.

Assistant Inspector General Peshawar has been speaking to a reporter. He looks bored and seems to be entirely incompetent. He speaks with a very heavy Punjabi accent, not really sure why he's in Peshawar.

Update 2:

The death toll has risen to 13 and includes 2 foreign nationals.

Update 3:

One of the dead is a UN official. The lack of light is seriously hampering the rescue work, till now no standby generators and high powered lights have been brought to the area. Rescuers are using vehicle headlights to carry out their work.

Hospitals in Peshawar are requesting people to donate blood.

A point raised by Ahsan in the comments i.e. why wasn't there more security, is exactly the question that several reporters are now asking after a few eyewitnesses reported that the Pick Up which exploded had entered the premises and was in the parking lot.

Moreover one news channel is now saying that the city was in red alert all day and there were reports that a possible suicide attack was imminent. The same reports also indicated two other things 1) an ambulance would be used (which wasn't the case here); and 2) that one bomb would be followed by another at the same place, which is why police officials are sweeping the whole place for explosives.

Update 4:

Geo reports that the foreigner who was killed is a UNHCR official from Russia.

Update 5 (from Ahsan):

The NYT is reporting that the hotel was about to be bought by the U.S. in a bid to increase its diplomatic presence (i.e. probably going to use it as a massive embassy). Take from that what you will. (Link courtesy reader Wasay)

Update 6 (from Ahsan):

If there's one theme running through this set of first-person accounts of the blast, it's the sheer impact of the blast at great distances from the epicenter. Read them for yourself.


Ahsan said...

I don't understand how such an obvious target is not better secured. In a way, I suppose the fact that most of the dead are police and security officials is an indication that is WAS properly secured. But I guess I mean more along the lines of preventive intelligence, and stopping it before it got underway.

Asfandyar said...

Friends of mine in Peshawar are getting calls from relatives in villages (Charsadda, Shabqadar) who HEARD the blast. :S

AKS said...

I'm going to go to sleep, people can provide updates in the comments.

I don't really have any opinion to offer on this, there's nothing left to say.

karachi khatmal said...

the place was well secured... there were barriers, several speed breakers, and guards on duty... the terrorists employed machine gun toting members to first neutralize the checkpost, and then get the shehzore with the bombs inside... i understand the frustration, but securing a city isn't easy, and the terrorists are increasingly sophisticated in their ability to work around security apparatus.

maryam usa said...

My family which includeds my Mother, father, brothers, sisters cousins uncles, and aunts live in peshawar i am realy worried about them. may ALLAh help all muslims... I cant see pakistan in this situation.

Anonymous said...

Ali Brussels

I can' see Pakistan in this situation. Everyday you hear blasts and deaths ... I think those people are just not human. I can't believe someone can do this what these people are doing ... they will obviously an Inshallah have big anger of God and apart of it they've got already because suciding is already a punishment itself ... and they can't mesure the punishment they are going to have after death ... much more than they are giving other people in this world.