PESHAWAR, Pakistan – A suicide truck bombing at an upscale Peshawar hotel late Tuesday killed at least 11 people and injured 50 others, the latest in a series of bloody attacks across this war-torn country as government troops seek to drive Taliban militants out of the northwest region. The blast occurred at the Pearl Continental, a heavily fortified and secured hotel commonly used by foreigners and dignitaries.
At least two of the dead were U.N. workers.
The attack in the northwest provincial capital was the latest in a string of powerful bombings and ambushes in Pakistan’s leading cities as the government presses ahead with a major offensive against the Islamist militants in the Swat Valley and surrounding areas.
Eyewitnesses said the blast was set off in the hotel’s parking lot, reducing sections of the hotel to rubble and twisted steel. At least 50 of the hotel’s 150 rooms were destroyed as well as the hotel’s banquet hall and kitchen and 40 parked cars.
North-West Frontier Province Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain said the vehicle was laden with 1,100 pounds of explosives. Hussain put the death toll at 11 and said at least 50 people were injured. A search for additional bodies continued overnight.
While there was no immediate claim of responsibility, Pakistani authorities have characterized recent attacks on civilian targets as retaliation by the Taliban for major gains made by government troops since their operation began in late April.
The new blast is likely to raise questions about the level of security at sensitive locations, such as government buildings, security complexes and hotels in the country’s largest cities.
Peshawar, a city of 3 million, has been especially hard hit in recent weeks. On May 28, bomb blasts at bustling markets and at a checkpoint on the city’s outskirts killed more than 10 people. A car bomb outside a crowded movie theater the previous week killed six people and injured 75 others.