NWFP govt admits security lapses -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

NWFP govt admits security lapses

PESHAWAR – The death toll in Pearl Continental Hotel blast reached 19 on Wednesday, as six more bodies were retrieved from the debris on Wednesday.

The bodies of a woman, three foreigners, hotel manager Syed Kamal Ahmad, and PIA captain Muhammed Ayub were recovered from the wreckage of the hotel.

The hotel was damaged in a powerful blast on Tuesday night and the government has also formed an investigation team headed by DIG Sifwat Ghayyur.

Police and hospital sources revealed that the injured and killed persons also included some foreigners who had been shifted to Khyber Teaching Hospital, Peshawar. The deceased foreigners were identified as Alexander (45), citizen of Serbia and a UN employee, and a Philippine citizen Parse, while the injured were identified as Witson, a UN employee, Golden Brown, citizen of Great Britain, and Enas, a citizen of Germany.

One Jamil Shah told that he was a driver in the hotel and when the blast occurred he was coming out of the mosque and some 20 persons including the prayer leader (Imam) came under the rubble of the mosque. A portion of the hotel razed to the ground while around 50 vehicles in the parking lot were damaged, he added.

The rescuers are still searching for bodies while some people are busy removing debris of the collapsed portion. Security has further been tightened to avert any possible attacks of militants. More troops have been deployed on Corpse Commander House and important installations.

The number of casualties can rise as some of the injured persons were stated to be in critical condition.

An official of bomb disposal squad said that more than 500 kilograms explosive material was used in the attack and probably its original target was the house of Corps Commander Peshawar.

AFP adds: Rescuers have pulled at least nine bodies from the rubble of a luxury hotel in the City hit by a suicide car bomb, as blame fell Wednesday on Taliban rebels avenging a military push.

NWFP Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain said there were ‘security lapses’ leading up to the blast late Tuesday at the five-star Pearl Continental hotel in Peshawar city, and vowed an investigation.

He said the bombing was likely the latest in a string of attacks by militants seeking to exact revenge for a six-week offensive against them in swathes of the northwest.

“The blast is a reaction to the army offensive in Swat and Malakand. The possibility of this type of terrorist attack cannot be ruled out in future,” said Iftikhar.

He earlier put the death toll at 18, but late Wednesday told a Press conference that new information indicated nine people had died.

“Nine people died including two foreigners,” he said, adding that 62 people were injured. “Earlier information was obtained in an emergency situation.”
Local police, however, have put the death toll at 13.
Iftikhar said one of the vehicles had earlier attracted suspicion and come under fire near the residence of a senior military official, while the electronic barrier at the Pearl Continental was lowered when attackers hit.

“This shows there were clearly security lapses,” he said. “There will be an official investigation.”

Online adds: Senior provincial minister and central ANP leader Bashir Bilour has said that the involvement of hotel employees in the blast cannot be ruled out, adding that the province was in a state of war.

Talking to mediamen during a visit of destroyed hotel, he said definitely the terrorists had local support to carryout deadly blast in luxury hotel while the investigating team led by CCPO Peshawar is investigating the matter and nation would be informed about the results.

Answering a question, he said the province was in a state of war. “If we have taken no security measures then 50 to 60 blasts could have been happened in Peshawar. Foreigners were the target of terrorists and targeting those foreigners who were in Pakistan for help of internally displaced people is condemnable,” he said.

Monitoring Desk adds: An organization which calls itself Abdullah Azzam Shaheed Brigade (AASB) has claimed responsibility of the Tuesday’s bomb blast at Pearl Continental Hotel in Peshawar, reported a private TV channel on Wednesday.

Almost 19 people including foreigners were killed in the Tuesday’s suicide attack at PC Hotel.

Source: The Nation

Date:6/11/2009