Peshawar: At least seven people were killed and 34 others wounded in a bomb blast at the five-star Pearl Continental hotel in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar on Tuesday, officials said.
It was the latest in a series of attacks on urban centres in Pakistan in what officials have said are revenge for a military offensive in the northwest against Taliban rebels.
The blast hit the luxury hotel in the high-security Khyber Road area of Peshawar, and fire swept through the building.
“Seven people are dead and 34 injured,” senior district administration official Sahibzada Anees told said.
Senior police official Abdul Ghafoor Afridi said, “It was a bomb brought in a vehicle in the garb of hotel supplies.”
An AFP reporter at the scene said a deep crater was visible outside the hotel and there was damage to the four-storey building. Rescue workers carried the wounded, including foreigners, to safety.
Witnesses and a security official said that the attackers were travelling in a delivery pick-up truck and there was shooting before the blast.
Television footage showed ambulances and police cars streaming to the hotel, which is popular with dignitaries, officials and foreign visitors, and rescuers carrying out the injured on their backs.
It is the seventh deadly bombing to hit the troubled city in a month, as fears grow that Taliban militants are extracting revenge for a punishing six-week military offensive against them in three northwest districts.
Since the government offensive began more than a dozen bomb blasts have killed over 100 people, with Peshawar, Pakistan’s cultural capital Lahore and Islamabad all hit.
Tuesday’s attack on the Pearl Continental echoes a suicide truck bomb attack on the luxury Marriott Hotel in Islamabad in September 2008 that killed 60 people.
In a previous recent attack on Peshawar, on 28 May, twin motorbike bombs ripped through crowded markets, killing five people and wounding 100 others.
And on Friday, a suicide bomb ripped through a mosque packed with worshippers, also in the northwest of the country, killing 38 people and wounding dozens more in the deadliest such attack in more than two months.
The United States has strongly supported the Swat operation, which was launched under pressure from Washington and amid warnings that Islamist militants posed an existential threat to the country and were plotting attacks on the West.
The military launched its offensive in the northwest after Taliban fighters advanced to within 100 kilometres of Islamabad, in violation of an earlier deal to put the region’s three million people under sharia law in exchange for peace.