40 Killed in Islamabad suicide attack


Aftermath of the blast in front of the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad. Photo from Voice of America.

Islamabad is the latest target of the Taliban terror campaign. More than 40 people have been killed and more than 70 have been wounded after a suicide truck bomb packed with explosives rammed into the Marriott Hotel in the Pakistani capital today, Geo TV reported. Westerners are feared to be among those killed as the death toll is expected to rise.

The hotel is currently on fire. Officials on the scene expect the casualties to rise to over 100 killed, as people are still trapped in the building and many of those wounded are in critical condition.

Officials initially estimated the bomb contained between 120 and 140 pounds of explosives. The blast then ignited a natural gas leak that set the hotel ablaze, CNN reported. The explosion was powerful enough to reduce cars on the street to “twisted steel” and topple trees in the area. A large crater was left in front of the hotel in the aftermath of the blast.

The five-star Marriott Hotel is popular with Western visitors, and has been the target of attacks in the past. Today’s attack is the third bombing at the Islamabad Marriott since 2004. One attack occurred as US Embassy personnel were meeting at the hotel, and wounded two Italian and one American diplomats.

Today’s attack is the 13th major strike in Pakistan since Aug. 12. Taliban bombers have struck in Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar, Wah, Dera Ismail Khan, Swat, and Bannu, killing more than 300 Pakistanis and wounding more than 450, according to numbers compiled by The Long War Journal. These numbers do not include casualties sustained during clashes between the military and the Taliban. The Taliban also attempted to assassinate Prime Minister Gilani and the senior US diplomat in Peshawar.

The Taliban has stepped up its promised terror campaign outside of the tribal areas after peace negotiations broke down and the military initiated offensives in Bajaur and Swat.

Baitullah Mehsud, the commander of the Pakistani Taliban, had previously threatened to wage “jihad” and turn the provinces of Sindh and Punjab “into a furnace” if the operations did not cease.

The Taliban insurgency has intensified in Swat, Bajaur, Kohat, Kurram, and other tribal agencies and settled districts in the region. Fighting has been especially heavy in Bajaur and Swat, where the government claimed more than 1,000 Taliban fighters have been killed over the past several weeks.

The military and the government have also fought intense battles along the Indus Highway over the past several weeks. The strategic road connects Peshawar with the southern tribal agencies and districts of the Northwest Frontier Province, as well as the port city of Karachi. The road has been closed since a massed assault on a military outpost near the tunnel on Aug. 21.

Suicide attack in North Waziristan

The blast in Islamabad coincided with a suicide strike against a Pakistani military convoy in North Waziristan. A suicide car bomber rammed into the 30-vehicle convoy as it traveled from Bannu to Miramshah, the administrative seat of North Waziristan.

Ten soldiers were killed and more than a dozen were wounded in the strike.

The military has been under attack from the Taliban and the Haqqani Network after the US fired missiles on a mosque run by Jalaluddin Haqqani.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.



  • NS says:

    You are asking way too excellent/sensible questions. These are the same people who couldnt live with Musharaff whom they considered an American stooge – i can remember the mass protests (which were actually good in my view) against Musharaff.
    But where are the mass protests against terrorism? Against Al Qaeda? Against the Taliban? Well, it looks like living under the “American stooge” was actually better. But i suspect that most of these people do not mind a Western-rich target like the Marriott being attacked by terrorists. After all the Taliban are their “brothers”.
    Incidents like these prove that the Lal Masjid incident last year was no accident – Pakistan has been entrapped by the Taliban and Islamic terrorism – there is no escaping this fact now.
    I have this real uneasy feeling about Pakistan in the coming years- the US needs to be on higer alert than ever before.

  • TS Alfabet says:

    These attacks were almost certainly meant to send a signal to Gilani and others in the Pak govt that any cooperation with the recent U.S. campaign to strike AQ bases will be punished with more such bombings. No doubt AQAM also wants to make a show of strength and convince the public that opposing them is hopeless. They risk, however, turning public opinion against them.
    On the other hand, these strikes might also show that the U.S. strikes are having a telling effect on AQAM, so much so that they feel they must take extraordinary measures to stop the strikes now.

  • Marlin says:

    A possible motive for the bombing appears.

    Several senior officers of Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) who are reported to be currently visiting Islamabad were the target of the blast at the Marriott Hotel which took place here tonight.
    Well placed sources said that Marriott Hotel is usual hotel choice of the US officials and it seems that militants tipped off that certain high level US intelligence officers were currently staying at the hotel.
    While no confirmation was available but Pakistan sources said it was clear that the explosion was aimed at specific targets based on a tip off.

    Thaindian News: Senior CIA officers were target of Islamabad blast

  • DaveK says:

    I’m betting that the estimate on the quantity of explosives will be re-estimated upwards. Some reports indicate a 25 ft crater at the blast site, which suggests a lot more than 125 lb of explosives. It takes a very big explosion to make a crater that big, unless the explosive is buried into the ground. Think of a somewhat smaller version of the Khobar Towers truck bomb.

    IF… the initial blast caused a massive gas leak that didn’t ignite immediately, you might get some of the effects noted… windows blown out, trees knocked down, widespread fires. But gas explosions don’t cause big craters unless you are dealing with a buried high-pressure line that burst in the initial blast.

    We’ll see what later reports have to say.

    Just my $.02


  • MattW says:

    There are other guesstimates out there for 1,000kg of explosives:
    And at this stage, guesstimates are all they are.
    Hadn’t seen the CIA thing, but I did see that apparently 30 US Marines were staying there:

  • Buff52 says:

    Does any one know or have a guess as to what entity or individual is charge of security at the Islamabad Marriott Hotel?
    How would other hotels approach security measures within Pakistan?

  • MattW says:

    I don’t know, but I’ll certainly guess!
    This particular Marriott has several reasons to have tried for excellent security. This hotel has been attacked before (as have other Marriotts, ie, Jakarta), it is often used by groups and individuals terrorists would consider to be attractive targets, and it is part of a wealthy chain. It ought to be a difficult target – Marriott can certainly afford to make it one. It is a safe guess, assuming basic sense on the part of the owners, that they worked with security consultants to reinforce the hotel’s security measures.
    How might they try to protect it? Obviously keeping vehicles at a distance is paramount. Some sort of perimeter, inspections of incoming vehicles, etc.
    Unfortunately, car bombers leap-frogging can and apparently have undone that. If it is correct that one car bomber cleared the way for the other, that also speaks to the high quality of the attack and attackers.
    Responsibility for hotel security would presumably lie with the owners, but given the status and location of the hotel some measure of Pakistani government support is possible.
    The guards themselves could be of any quality. A motivated, knowledgeable security chief with a budget might hire former combat soldiers, even special forces. An incompetent, lazy one (or one without a budget) might hire those willing to work for the least. It may be something in the middle.
    Again, if – if – the attack was a multi-staged car bombing, security would probably have to be on a war-footing to have prevented it. For a business, especially a hospitality business, to be in such a posture all the time is not possible.

  • Kidartbai says:

    Bajaur is the key battleground at the moment for Pakistan. The terrorists there are being helped from across the Durand line by Afghan terrorists and NATO and Karzai of course are “powerless” as well to stop this. Their priority is the Haqqani network and they turn a blind eye to Mehsud, and Pakistan does vice versa.
    It still surprises me that even today the Afghan government has not recognize the Durand line as the official border between Pakistan and Afghanistan yet still complains of cross border terrorism from a border they do not officially acknowledge. They still have not let go of their ambitions of a Greater Afghanistan just like the ISI seems to not have fully let go of it’s strategic depth ambitions in Afghanistan.
    It will be a tough battle for Pakistan, both due to internal division and external support from neighboring countries and world powers to groups like the BLA, Jundullah, TTP for their own interests.
    Battle to be won or lost in Bajaur
    “This supply line from Kunar to Bajaur has, however, eased the pressure in Afghanistan. Western diplomatic sources acknowledge that the level of violence in Kunar has dropped appreciably since the launch of the operation in Bajaur, indicating a planning and operational linkage that overlaps the Durand Line.
    Realising how crucial and critical the Bajaur operation is – and the massive impact it can have on restive neighbouring tribal regions – the army has lined up tremendous resources to make quick headway.”

  • zs says:

    Regarding US marines at the Mariott:
    “Was there a top secret and mysterious operation of the US Marines going on inside the Marriott when it was attacked on Saturday evening? No one will confirm it but circumstantial evidence is in abundance.”
    My 2 cents: if you want to know what’s going on in Pakistan, pay more attention to the 3 top english Pakistani newspapers (Dawn, The Daily Times, and The News) than to the Indian newspapers.

  • Thanos says:

    Just a couple notes, the US military are probably there planning where and when to set up the training camp for anti-terror and COIN training, rumor has it that an agreement was reached on that the other night.
    Some PM’s are putting out the notion that the attack was to be against the Parliament, but got redirected due to heavy security. (The International News Pakistan)

  • flyonthewall says:

    The report you linked is extremely concerning. If I were in a hotel that was being used for a military operation without my knowledge I’d at least want it to be without anyone else’s awareness. This was either transparent or fabricated, and makes it even easier to divert accountability from the terrorists and fuel hatred of Americans. I sure hope there’s some master plan too sophisticated for small minds like mine and the Pakistanis to explain embedding marines armed to the teeth among civilians. Not good.

  • My2cents says:

    flyonthewall ,
    Lot’s of people, including the military, politicians, government officials, businesses, unions, lawyers, criminals, terrorists, and reporters hold meetings in hotels, restaurants, etc. for concealment and in order to assure a “bug free environment”, but mostly to avoid rumors getting to the press. It’s part of the history of the entire travel and entertainment industry. Telling the hotel management in advance would negate these advantages.
    Sure, you could insist on being informed, but how would you enforce it? Ban anybody that might do anything but eat, sleep, and excrete?

  • Buff52 says:

    The Islamabad Marriott needs to be rebuilt on a site that would allow sufficient set back/and or distance from the street. Also, heavy trucks should be banned.
    Can the Marriott Hotel chain afford this?


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