A suspected car bomb has caused a huge explosion outside the Marriott Hotel in the Pakistan capital, leaving at least 52 people dead and many more trapped inside the burning building. At least 100 were reported injured.
"A car laden with explosives rammed the gate at the Marriott," police chief Asghar Raza Gardazi said, according to Reuters. Authorities later clarified that it was a truck bomb that struck that triggered the enormous blast..
The attack came just hours after Pakistan's new president, Asif Ali Zardari, had made his first address to a joint session of parliament
, pledging that Pakistan would not tolerate any infringement of its territory in the name of the fight against militants and stressing that his country must root out terrorists.
Television images soon after the blast showed bodies being carried away and huge flames pouring out of the five-story hotel, a carefully guarded facility that is popular among foreigners and wealthy Pakistanis.
It was unclear how many people remained trapped inside as firefighting efforts continued at the complex, which is popular with foreigners and was likely to have been bustling on a Saturday evening.
Pakistani government spokesman Farhatullah Baber told CNN as rescue efforts continued that there were no VIP or diplomatic events scheduled in the hotel at the time of the explosion and most victims were likely to be hotel workers. He also reiterated the government's determination to combat terrorism.
One Danish diplomat was reportedly wounded in the attack. Saudi embassy officials said several Saudi nationals were reported missing.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.
Television pictures showed parts of the 290-room hotel, which is located at the foot of the Margalla hills and close to the city center, engulfed in flames.
Witnesses reported that ceilings in the hotel lobby and dining area had collapsed, although those reports were still unconfirmed.
In January 2007, a suicide bomber blew himself up in an attempt to reach the heart of the same hotel, killing two guards.
Zardari was sworn in on September 9, three days after lawmakers chose him in an indirect election to succeed Pervez Musharraf, who stepped down under threat of impeachment.
In Washington, the White House condemned the attack, saying it supports the Pakistani government in its fight against terrorism.-- compiled from agency and broadcast reports