Pakistan hotel blast toll rises to 16

June 10, 2009 at 7:40 AM

PESHAWAR, Pakistan, June 10 (UPI) -- The death toll from the suicide bombing of a posh hotel in Peshawar, Pakistan, rose to 16 as crews pulled more bodies from the debris, officials said.

As part of their initial investigation, officials said a review of security film showed a car and a truck storming past the security gate at the five-star Pearl Continental hotel late Tuesday, with one attacker opening fire on security guards, The New York Times reported.

"They tried their best to stop the car bomb," Jamil Kharwar, a hotel spokesman, told CNN. "When a person has in his mind to come to die, nobody can stop him."

The blast was powerful enough to leave a 15-foot-wide crater that was 6 feet deep and collapsed the western wing of the hotel, one of the few in Peshawar to cater to Western visitors. The Times said the hotel's guest list included officials from relief agencies working with people displaced by the recent fighting between the military and Taliban militants.

Two U.N. workers were among the dead, officials said. They were identified as a Serbian national working for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees and a UNICEF worker from the Philippines.

Peshawar is the capital of the restive Northwest Frontier province, which has seen a rash of bombings on civilian targets in the aftermath of government's offensive against the militants.

Sajjan Gohel, an international security analyst at the Asia-Pacific Foundation in Britain, told CNN Tuesday's blast could be in response to the government's actions.

"It has been criticized very heavily in the tribal areas because of the fact that the Pakistani military has been using helicopter gunships against the Taliban, which has resulted in very high civilian casualties," Gohel said.

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