Hotel blast kills 24, injures many in Peshawar
A bomb planted in a hotel reception killed at least 24 people in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar on Tuesday, a provincial official said.
The blast occurred at a hotel owned and frequented by Afghans, near a well known mosque in the heart of the capital of Pakistan's volatile North West Frontier Province.
"It was not a suicide bombing. They planted the device in a Marhaba Hotel near Masjid Mohabat Khan," Syed Kamal Shah, the federal interior secretary, said.
Peshawar has suffered an overspill of violence from tribal regions on the border with Afghanistan. The Pakistan military has been fighting Al-Qaeda militants there, while seeking to contain pro-Taliban tribesmen.
The bomb was planted near the counter in the hotel's reception, according to police.
A Reuters photographer saw lifeless bodies strewn amid pools of blood and body parts on the floor.
"My information is 24 people lost their lives in the blast and 25 to 30 were wounded," Asif Iqbal Daudzai, NWFP's information minister, told Reuters.
Peshawar police chief Abdul Majeed Marwat said the toll could rise as many of the wounded were in a critical condition.
There was a rash of bomb blasts in the city in late 2006 and earlier this year, as militants angry with President Pervez Musharraf's alliance with the United States sought to destabilise the government by creating insecurity.
"It is terrorism but who did this or who is behind it, it is premature to comment on it," Interior Secretary Shah said.
The impact of the blast was described by one of the hotel's Afghan employees. "I was in the kitchen when I heard an explosion and a wall of our restaurant fell on my feet," said Muslim Khan.
The owner of the hotel and two of his sons were among the dead, according to a neighbour. The family hailed from the ethnic Hazara community of Afghanistan's central highlands, and were Shi'ite Muslims.
To escape the conflict raging in their homeland in the past three decades, many Afghans flocked to Peshawar, Afghanistan's former winter capital in a bygone era.