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Page last updated at 12:19 GMT, Monday, 22 September 2008 13:19 UK

'We are all in pain and agony'

Islamabad's Marriott hotel was devastated by a suicide bomb on Saturday which killed at least 53 people and injured hundreds more. People in the city describe the climate of fear the attack has created.

IMTIAZ INDHER, JOURNALIST

Imtiaz Indher
I am in despair. We are all in pain and agony. All of the city folk of Islamabad feel this way.

The bomb struck at a time when most Muslims were breaking their fast. I heard the blast and I thought an earthquake had struck the city. Within 15 minutes I was at the site and I saw dead bodies, blood and broken windows all around. Nothing could be seen but destruction.

There is real distress and there is disappointment and a feeling that the government could have saved people.

There are many unanswered questions. A red alert was declared the day before the blast but I saw no police on the streets, no checkpoints.

There should also have been a quicker response. Pakistan lacks disaster management facilities. There was no equipment to control the fire. I saw that only 10% of the hotel was burning at first but after 30 minutes the fire had spread all over.

One newspaper calls this Pakistan's 9/11 and this is really true. The whole country is grieving.

REHAN REFAY JAMIL, MEDIA CONSULTANT, 25

Rehan Ramay
It was my birthday on the day of the bomb blast. I had been eating at an outdoor restaurant not so far away from the Marriott.

We instinctively crouched under the tables because it felt that something was falling. Within seconds we all knew this was something big.

People are very gloomy. Yesterday was Sunday and nobody went out. People avoided restaurants and hotels. Today in the office everyone had stories. The brother of one lady in our office survived the blast.

This is personal. The windows of many people's homes had been smashed. Everyone has been touched. Islamabad is a small town.

There is a real sense of fear. People feel the worst is yet to come. If an attack could happen in one of the highest security zones in the country, how under control is law and order?

This is not abstract any more. It's not happening far away in Waziristan - it's happening in the cities we live in.

I think the policy of bombing these border tribal areas without some kind of political solution, with wanton regard for civilian life is poisonous and is now coming back to haunt us.

SARAH HASAN, REPORTER

Sarah Hasan
People are very depressed. It is difficult to restart our routine of work and life with the same passion as before. People are scared. We are all scared.

Because of this sad event people's freedoms have been restricted. Roads are cordoned off. The festival of Eid is near but people are too scared to go outside.

No one has admitted responsibility but we believe foreign agencies are involved. The war against terror was an American war and now we are the victims of terrorism.

I was there after the bomb went off and people were crying and they were hopeless. What is going on in the country? I believe the militants who did this were foreign agents. Islam doesn't preach to kill anyone. This is not Islam.

When I visited the hospital, there were people crying. Those who were killed were the waiters, the valet parkers, the guards. How can their families survive?

ASIM MUKHTAR, IT WORKER, 28

I witnessed a suicide blast in Islamabad in June. This is the fourth bomb to have gone off since then. We are used to it now.

We feel grief and then life goes on. In the office, everybody was very upset and aggrieved. Some people blame the Taleban, others say we cannot know who to blame. Some are very angry about the government.

People ask how such a big truck filled with explosives could get into such an area? There was a red alert in the city.

We condemn this attack strongly. The blast in Islamabad or the war in Bajaur - we condemn all of it. If you go and kill somebody somewhere, then there will be a reaction. If we have peace talks with people then things can improve hopefully.

MAIRA ZAHUR, NGO WORKER

Maira Zahur
I was planning to go to the Marriott that day but the plan was changed.

The whole situation is disgusting to be honest. People are now a little scared. They are not going to hotels or to restaurants. The streets and the bazaars are not flooded as one would expect for this time of year.

We won't be going out in the evenings. We will still have to get necessities, but the extras, the fun things in life will be stopped.

One newspaper talked about this being Pakistan's 9/11 but I believe that 9/11 has been happening to us for the last four to five years.

I think the government of Pakistan has been blindly following US policy. But for me the blame should come down on the shoulders of the common Pakistani. We have been indifferent to the fate of our country for too long.

Army should have kept out of politics, political parties should have been more sensitive to people's needs. But people just let it all happen.



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