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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 May 2007, 14:33 GMT 15:33 UK
Many killed in Pakistan bombing
The lunchtime blast caused massive destruction.

A powerful bomb blast in a hotel in the centre of the north-western Pakistani city of Peshawar has killed at least 24 people, police and officials say.

The ground-floor blast demolished parts of the four-storey Marhaba hotel near a busy market, trapping people inside.

Up to 30 people were injured, officials said. Ambulances and hand-pushed carts were used to ferry them to hospital.

The motive for the attack is not known. Peshawar has seen many recent attacks, some causing serious loss of life.

Rescue efforts

The Marhaba, in Peshawar's old city, is popular with tribal visitors from Afghanistan.

I tried to visit the site but there was huge rush of people and every one was panicking... It was terrible
Humayun Khan, Peshawar

Police say the blast happened at lunchtime in the reception lobby when the hotel was crowded with diners.

One man, Muhammad Ibrahim, told the BBC of his near escape.

"I was entering the hotel when suddenly [there was] a huge bomb blast cracking everything around."

Another spoke of panic in the area, and of the dead and injured being taken to the nearby Lady Reading hospital.

Hassan Khan, a waiter in the hotel, said he survived only because he was taking food to guests in their rooms at the time of the blast.

"I lost my senses, and when I came round and ran to see, there were dead bodies and body parts everywhere, even out in the street," he told the Associated Press news agency.

Person injured in Peshawar blast, 15 May
Many people were wounded in the explosion

He said the Afghan owner of the restaurant, his two sons and two other relatives were among the dead. Seven employees had also been killed.

The blast was so powerful that it blew out at least one of the walls of the hotel.

Television pictures showed shattered windows and twisted fans inside the hotel. Nearby buildings in the congested city centre also suffered damage.

Local people helped get survivors out of the building and retrieve bodies.

Provincial police chief Sharif Virk said at least one woman and a child were also among the dead.

He called the incident terrorism, but he has not named any suspects. No group has said it carried out the attack.

Mr Virk and other senior police and government officials have said they believe the attack was carried out by a suicide bomber.

They say that a severed leg, possibly that of the alleged bomber, was found at the scene of the blast with a note in Pashto tied to it warning "American spies" of a similar fate.

Correspondents say so far neither the leg nor the note have been shown to journalists - nor is it clear how a suicide bomber could be confident that a piece of paper would be found intact after the blast.

Bomb attacks

There have been a series of explosions in Peshawar over the past year.

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Some have been blamed on local militants from Pakistan's nearby tribal areas, said to be taking revenge for government strikes against them.

Others have been blamed on Afghan intelligence. Pakistan and Afghanistan have a history of strained relations.

Last month a suicide attack near Peshawar targeted the interior minister and killed nearly 30 people.

In January, a bomb in the city killed at least 14 people, most of them policemen.

Correspondents say there is no indication that Tuesday's blast is linked to violence between pro-government and opposition supporters which has left more than 40 people dead in recent days in the southern city of Karachi.




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