Pakistani police on Wednesday pulled bodies from the charred rubble of a luxury hotel in northwest Peshawar after a suicide car bomb killed 18 people in the city troubled by Taliban violence.
A top provincial official said the massive blast at the Pearl Continental Hotel late Tuesday was likely the latest in a string of revenge attacks by Islamist militants over a six-week offensive against them in the northwest.
Police hunting for the dead moved from room to room in the five-star hotel, large parts of which were reduced to rubble when at least two attackers shot security guards and then slammed an explosives-laden truck into the building.
Early reports suggested that at least two men shot their way through a security barrier and into the hotel compound, where they managed to detonate about 500 kg of explosives packed in a small truck.
“It was such a huge and powerful blast that the engine flew up to the fourth floor of the hotel,” police official Shafiullah Khan told AFP.
CCTV footage broadcast on Pakistani television channels showed a car driving quickly through a security post on a road into the hotel, swiftly followed by a small truck, indicating that two vehicles may have been involved.
The United Nations said the dead included two of their employees — Serbian national Aleksandar Vorkapic, who worked for the refugee agency UNHCR, and Perseveranda So of the Philippines, who worked for children’s agency UNICEF.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called the bombing a “heinous terrorist attack which no cause can justify.”
Dozens of aid workers were staying at the opulent hotel before heading out to refugee camps in North West Frontier Province, where Pakistan launched military action in three districts on April 26 to try to crush Taliban rebels.
No group has yet claimed responsibility for Tuesday’s hotel blast.