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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2618

17 including UN employees killed in PC Peshawar blast: UN suspends activities in northwest Pakistan

Left side of the PC Peshawar hotel completely destroyed in blastLeft side of the PC Peshawar hotel completely destroyed in blastBy Farzana Shah-Asian Tribune Correspondent in Pakistan

Peshawar, 11 June, (Asiantribune.com): The United Nations Organization has cancelled all the activities in Peshawar following the blast at a five-star hotel here on Tuesday that left 17 people including UN officials dead. After the blast UN suspended its activities for an unspecified period.

It is to be mentioned here that all the employees of UN World Food Program that is working on the supply of food for affected people of Malakand, were staying at the hotel.

All the three WFP personnel lost their lives in the blast. Also, two employees including a woman of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) were killed in the blast.

Two of the aid workers - a Serb who worked for the refugee agency UNHCR and a Filipino who worked for children's agency UNICEF - were killed, the UN said.

A huge explosion ripped through the sole five-star hotel Pearl Continental of Peshawar the Frontier province’s metropolis on Tuesday evening, killed 17 people.

About 70 people wounded in the explosion including a British aid worker. Among the injured were citizens of the United Kingdom, Somalia, Germany and Madagascar.

Police said that armed men first launched a frontal assault on the main entrance to the Pearl Continental Hotel, killing security guards.

According to Capital City Police Chief Safwat Ghayyur a mini-truck laden with explosives then entered the hotel premises and exploded in the main parking lot close to the main building.

The assailants first killed the security guards on the main gate to lower the electronic barrier and then went inside the main parking lot, firing indiscriminately.

Ikram, an accountant at the hotel, said he saw armed men firing from a white colour double pick-up. 'I took refuge in the small mosque in the parking area.'

Police, quoting eyewitnesses, said the assailants were three in number and the explosion was carried out by a suicide bomber.

The hotel was frequented by expatriates, more so in recent days, by staff members of aid organisations looking after the internally displaced people from Malakand division.

The hotel is located near the residence of the Peshawar Corps Commander and the Commandant of Frontier Constabulary, which is presently occupied by NWFP’s Inspector-General of Police Malik Naveed Khan.

The explosion caused the western side of the hotel to collapse. 'This attack has all the signatures of the Rescue 15 attack in Lahore. The same tactics appeared to have been repeated here,' one security official said.

Shafqat Malik of the Bomb Disposal Squad told reporters outside the hotel that the explosives weighed between 500 and 550 kilograms. 'It was a massive car bombing,' he said. The explosion caused a 16 by 15 feet crater.

'I don’t think we have ever had an explosion in Peshawar of this magnitude,' Senior Superintendent of Police Qazi Jameel said.

Peshawar has been under a high state of alert for the past one week after intelligence agencies warned of terrorist attacks against landmark buildings. 'It is too early to pin blame on a particular group. But this appears to have come from the same group that masterminded the Rescue 15 attack,' the security official said.

The CCPO said that a few suspects had been detained for questioning. 'Investigations are under way,' he said. Meanwhile relief activities are in progress at the hotel.

The bodies of six people including Hotel Manager Syed Kamal Shah and PIA Captain Muhammed Ayub have been recovered; the other deceased include a staff of UN Population Fund and a security guard.

DIG Peshawar Range Sifwat Ghayur is heading a team to probe into the blast. The inquiry team said in its preliminary report that at least 500-kilogram of explosives has been used in the blast.

Sifwat Ghayur also claimed to have recovered three bodies of the suicide bombers; however, UN Population Fund repudiated the claim saying they belonged to their organisation and all the three personnel—Muhammed Miskeen, Fawwad and Tahir-- were sitting in the UN vehicle at the time of blast.

"The blast is a reaction to the army offensive in Swat and Malakand. The possibility of this type of terrorist attack cannot be ruled out in future," said the information minister for the North West Frontier province, Mian Iftikhar Hussain.

- Asian Tribune -

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