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Pakistan govt fingers al-Qaeda for hotel blast

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A massive suicide bomb attack that destroyed the Islamabad Marriott hotel has the 'hallmarks' of an al-Qaeda attack, govt and security officials say

AFP

Pakistani security personnel walk past a crater in front of the devastated Marriott hotel in Islamabad on Sunday.

ISLAMABAD - Pakistan on Sunday blamed al-Qaeda-linked Taliban militants for the massive suicide truck bombing at the Marriott Hotel that killed at least 53 people and injured more than 260.

Dramatic footage of Saturday night's attack showed the carnage could have been far worse, but the attacker failed to get through a secondary barrier when he crashed his explosives-laden truck into the hotel's security gates.

The interior ministry said the truck was packed with 600 kilograms (1,300 pounds) of explosives, and pointed a finger at Taliban militants allied with al-Qaeda who are based in the remote areas along the border with Afghanistan.

"It has the hallmarks of al-Qaeda," a senior official involved in the investigation told AFP. "It was an al-Qaeda-style bombing."

Ministry official Rehman Malik said 53 people were killed and 266 were injured in the attack. The security official said at least 60 people were dead.

Rescuers were continuing to pick through the rubble of the hotel, which was all but destroyed in the massive blast, heard for miles around, and a subsequent fire that swept through the 300-room hotel.

The brazen attack appeared to have been timed to inflict maximum casualties, ripping through the hotel when it was packed with families having dinner to break the daily fast in the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

The bombing came on the one-year anniversary of Osama bin Laden's call for Pakistani Muslims to unleash jihad, or holy war, against the government, a vital ally in the US-led "war on terror".

Closed-circuit footage showed that the attacker rammed his truck into the gates but failed to get through a second barrier. Malik said the attacker intended to drive right into the lobby of the hotel. He apparently tried to persuade the guards to lower the second barrier - and when they would not, he blew himself up in the truck's cabin.

The guards then tried to put out the fire in the truck, and it was several minutes before the second, larger blast devastated the Marriott, which was popular with politicians, foreigners and the Pakistani elite.

No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack, which came just hours after Pakistan's new president, Asif Ali Zardari, delivered his inaugural address to parliament and vowed to wipe out terrorism. AFP

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