Saturday, September 20, 2008

Breaking News; Islamabad Hotel Bombing

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) -- A car bomb detonated Saturday night in the heart of Islamabad, killing at least 20 people and wounding at least another 20, police said.

Rescue workers pulled bloodied victims from vehicles, and other casualties could be seen in the street. Officials predicted the casualty tolls would rise.

GEO TV's Hamid Mir, who was at the explosion site, said he saw at least 52 bodies. Most of the fatalities appeared to be drivers who were waiting with their cars outside the hotel, and hotel staff -- most of them security guards.

Mir said a witness saw the gates of the hotel rammed open by a small car, followed by an explosive-laden truck that detonated.

The blast caused a natural gas leak that set the top floor of the five-story, 258-room Marriott Hotel on fire. The blaze quickly engulfed the entire structure. More than a dozen cars were reduced to twisted steel. Watch firefighters battle fire at hotel »

Police described the blast, which occurred at 8 p.m. (10 a.m. ET), as a car bomb.

Nearby trees were felled by the blast, which occurred hours after newly elected President Asif Ali Zardari addressed a joint session of Parliament and promised to root out terrorism.

Video showed a deep crater in the pavement where the bomb is thought to have detonated.

At the CNN bureau, more than two miles from the hotel, the explosion sounded like it occurred just outside, said CNN's Reza Sayah, who was at his desk at the time.

"All of a sudden, the bureau roared and rumbled," he said. "It was a roaring rumble that would not stop. Seconds later, the windows shattered."

The Marriott, a Western brand-name hotel, has been the site of attacks in the past.

Located near the diplomatic section of the city and heavily guarded by police and military, the facility is popular among tourists. Any car entering the facility is searched, its underside scrutinized for bombs, before it is allowed to pass through heavy steel gates.

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