World leaders condemn Islamabad bombing


Islamabad : Governments around the world have condemned the suicide bombing of the Marriott hotel in Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital, that has killed at least 52 people and left more than 200 injured. There has been no confirmed claim of responsibility, but US intelligence said that the blast, which ruptured a gas pipeline and triggered a blaze that engulfed the hotel, bore the “hallmarks” of an Al Qaeda attack.

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The Secretary General of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) Prof. Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu expressed deep shock and sorrow over the deadly blasts. He condemned the attack in the strongest terms, dubbing it a terrorist act of cowardice that runs against Islamic teachings of tolerance. In a statement, the OIC Chief said that the perpetrators of this act are enemies of peace, whom the international community should fight with determination and by all means. Prof. Ihsanoglu conveyed his solidarity and condolences to the government and people of Pakistan, in particular to the families of the victims who lost their lives in this senseless terrorist attack. He also extended his sympathy to the injured and prayed for their early recovery.

The US president George Bush who has targeted Al Qaeda in his so-called “war on terror”, described the attack as “part of a continuing assault on the people of Pakistan”. “I strongly condemn the terrorist bombing in Islamabad that targeted and killed many innocents, including at least one American,” he said. On the US campaign trail, Barack Obama, the Democratic White House hopeful, said the “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.”Now is the time to refocus our efforts on defeating al-Qaeda and securing the American people.”

John McCain, his Republican rival, 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.”

Britain also condemned the attack, with David Miliband, the foreign secretary, saying the UK stood “shoulder-to-shoulder with the government of Pakistan against the violent extremists who have no answers but only offer death and mayhem”. The European Union joined in expressing support for Pakistan. “At this difficult time, the presidency of the council of the European Union addresses a message of solidarity to the Pakistani authorities, and stands more than ever with them in their fight against terrorism,” the EU presidency, currently held by France, said in a statement from Brussels. In Moscow, Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian president, offered to boost Russian co-operation with Pakistan in battling outlawed armed groups. “Decisively condemning this inhuman act, we express our sincere solidarity and support to the people and leadership of Pakistan,” Medvedev said in a telegram to Asif Ali Zardari, Pakistan’s president. “We confirm our readiness to deepen cooperation with Pakistan, both on a bilateral level and within the framework of the war on terror.”

At the UN, Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, condemned the “heinous terrorist attack on the Marriott hotel in Islamabad,” his spokesperson said in a statement. “He expresses his heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims of this appalling attack, as well as to the government and people of Pakistan. No cause can justify the indiscriminate targeting of civilians.” In Asia, South Korea condemned the bombing, saying in a statement that the attack was “an act against humanity that cannot be tolerated under any cause”. The ministry expressed condolences to the families of those killed and to the government of Pakistan. The Australian government also condemned the attack. “This vicious attack on innocent people is another reminder of the grave terrorist threat which is threatening democracy and security in Pakistan. This threat cannot be allowed to succeed,” Stephen Smith, Australia’s foreign minister, said in a statement.

Rescue workers are searching through the smouldering remains of the Marriott hotel. Recovery teams pulled out at least four more bodies on Sunday and feared that more would be found in the wreckage of the hotel. The interior ministry said an American and a German were among 15 foreigners killed. The Czech ambassador was also one of those killed. Ivo Zdarek called his embassy moments after last night’s bombing from inside the hotel asking to be rescued, but officials confirmed later on Sunday that he had died in the blast. Officials said they were worried that the building, which burned through the night after Saturday’s blast ruptured a gas pipeline, might collapse. Hundreds of armed police and soldiers ringed the scene in the Pakistani capital, while army bulldozers cleared rubble from nearby streets.

Investigators said the bomb used more than 500kg of high-intensity explosives. Al Jazeera’s Imran Khan reported that rain was hampering the work of forensics teams scouring the crater for evidence. The hotel bombing came shortly after Asif Ali Zardari, Pakistan’s new president, delivered his inaugural address to parliament only a few hundred metres away. Zardari’s administration faces a struggle against al-Qaeda and pro-Taliban fighters in the country’s northern tribal regions. “Terrorism is a cancer in Pakistan, we are determined, God willing, we will rid the country of this cancer,” Zardari said in a televised address to the nation. “We will not be deterred by these cowards.” Zardari has left Pakistan for a schedled meeting with George Bush, the US president. Islamabad’s Marriott hotel, part of an American-owned chain, was a popular gathering place for foreigners and Pakistan’s elite.