| GEO Pakistan|
| PC hotel blast's death toll mounts to 12, injured 60|
| Updated at: 0344 PST, Wednesday, June 10, 2009|
PESHAWAR: At least 12 persons including three foreigners were killed while over 60 others sustained injuries when militants blew up their explosives-laden vehicle after storming into the compound of a five-star hotel situated on the Khyber Road here Tuesday night, police and witnesses said.
The witnesses said that the attackers first opened fire at the security personnel guarding the main entrance of the Pearl Continental Hotel to clear their vehicle’s entry into the building.
They took the vehicle to the parking lot of the hotel close to the mosque and blew it up killing 12 people including three foreigners and wounding 60 others, several of them foreigners.
A portion of the hotel was razed to the ground while around 50 vehicles in the parking lot were damaged.
The number of casualties could rise as some of the persons were reportedly trapped inside the debris, the eyewitnesses said.
An eye-witness said that first he heard firing and then there was a loud bang, which left the area engulfed in thick smoke. He said that the blast also suspended electricity to the area. The five-star hotel is located in a high security zone, as building of Radio Station Peshawar, NWFP Assembly, High Court, Corps Commander House, Supreme Court and Met Office were also located there.
It is believed that the blast was on the footprints of Marriot Hotel in Islamabad. The PC blast went off around 10:30pm, destroyed around 50 vehicles parked in the hotel parking lot, besides badly damaging the hotel building.
Soon after the blast, law-enforcement agencies cordoned off the area and closed the Khyber Road for every kind of traffic as well. The terrorists managed to get their vehicle into the building despite strict security at the gate of the hotel. The hotel was evacuated following the blast. Emergency was declared in Peshawar hospitals and around 75 injured were brought to the hospitals till filing of this report. The police have arrested several suspected people after the blast.
A Bomb Disposal Squad (BDS) official said that at least 500 kilograms of explosives were used in the attack, saying probably a vehicle was used for the attack. Meanwhile, the United Nations has said that at least 16 foreigners were also staying at the hotel.
NWFP Information Minister Iftikhar Hussain confirmed 11 deaths and over 50 injured persons. He said that three foreigners were also injured in the blast.
President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani have strongly condemned the blast.
They ordered the authorities to launch an immediate inquiry into the incident, so that the culprits of this terrorist incident could be brought to justice. Both the leaders also conveyed his condolences to the bereaved families.
Agencies adds: NWFP Minister for Zakat Rashid Khan and ANP Senator Nabi Bangash were also injured in the attack, according to private TV channels.
The blast hit the Pearl Continental Hotel in the high-security Khyber Road area. Fire erupted at the ground floor of the building after the blast and was extinguished by the firefighters after hectic efforts. Chaos enveloped the hotel popular with dignitaries, officials and foreign visitors.