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US condemns Pakistan blast

The United States on Saturday condemned the massive bombing of a Pakistan hotel that left at least 60 people dead, including one American, and expressed support for the country's government.

world Updated: Sep 21, 2008 01:32 IST

The United States on Saturday condemned the massive bombing of a Pakistan hotel that left at least 60 people dead, including one American, and expressed support for the country's government.

"The United States strongly condemns the terrorist attack that took place in Islamabad, Pakistan, today," national security council spokesman Gordon Johndroe said in a statement.

"This is a reminder of the threat we all face. The United States will stand with Pakistan's democratically elected government as they confront this challenge," said Johndroe, adding that President George W. Bush was briefed by National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley on the attack.

"President Bush offers his sincere condolences to the families of all those lost in today's vicious attack," the statement said.

In Islamabad, a suicide bomber detonated a truck packed with explosives at the Marriott Hotel Saturday, killing at least 60 people in a brazen attack in the heart of the Pakistan capital.

Police said 200 people were also wounded in the massive explosion, which ruptured a gas pipeline and triggered a huge blaze that engulfed the heavily-guarded site in flames.

A US national was among those killed, while several foreigners were also wounded, hospital and security officials in Islamabad told AFP.

"We have the body of one American national killed in the blast," spokesman for the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences, Wasim Khawaja, told AFP.

Many victims leapt to their deaths from the upper floors of the hotel to escape the fire, a senior security official told AFP, and there were fears more were buried in the debris.

Officials said they were worried that the hotel, a key meeting place for foreigners, would collapse.

The attack also came hours after new President Asif Ali Zardari -- who faces a serious challenge in reining in Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants -- delivered his first address to parliament, which is just a few hundred metres away.

On the US campaign trail, Democratic White House hopeful Barack Obama said "today's attack demonstrates the grave and urgent threat that al Qaeda and its affiliates pose to the United States, to Pakistan, and to the security of all nations.

"As the attack earlier this week on our embassy in Yemen shows, over seven years after 9/11, the terrorist threat knows no borders, and the terrorists threaten innocent civilians of all religions and regions," Obama said.

"Now is the time to refocus our efforts on defeating Al-Qaeda and securing the American people."

His Republican rival John McCain called the attack "an outrageous act of violence."

"Today's bombing must serve to deepen the resolve of Americans and Pakistanis alike to aggressively confront those terrorist groups that seek our destruction," McCain said.

"It also serves as one more demonstration of the need for the next president to work closely with our partners and allies in order to counter the dangers posed by radical Islamic extremism."