Page last updated at 09:42 GMT, Tuesday, 23 September 2008 10:42 UK

BA halts flights after hotel bomb

Bombed hotel site
A little-known militant group has taken responsibility for the attack

British Airways has suspended "indefinitely" flights to and from Pakistan in the wake of a bomb attack on a hotel in the capital, Islamabad.

The airline said it had suspended its six weekly Heathrow services "in light of the current security situation".

Six UK nationals, including one child, were hurt in Saturday's suicide bombing at the Marriott Hotel which killed 53 people and left 266 with injuries.

A lorry laden with 600kg of explosives rammed the hotel's security gate.

BA said in a statement that it was in discussion with numerous operators about possible provision of other travel options to and from Islamabad.

The capital is the only destination in Pakistan served by BA.

Passengers are told to contact their local British Airways office for further advice.

"We will not compromise on the safety of our customers, staff or planes," a BA spokesman said.

Pakistan International Airlines continues to operate direct flights between the UK and Pakistan, while indirect flights are possible with other carriers.

Meanwhile, the British High Commission in Pakistan said the company that runs four visa application centres had closed the sites for a security review.

Massive explosion

A little-known Pakistani militant group, Fidayeen-e-Islam, has said it carried out the attack.

The group - based in Pakistan's tribal areas and connected to leading militant Baitullah Mehsud - told the BBC that the aim of the attack was to stop US interference in Pakistan.

The government pledged to take targeted action against militants, suggesting raids would be carried out in "hotspots" near the border with Afghanistan.

The heavily-guarded hotel was attacked at about 2000 (1500 GMT) on Saturday, the blast making a crater about 8m (27ft) deep and triggering a fire that engulfed the 290-room, five-storey building for hours.

Witnesses described a scene in which blood-covered victims were pulled from the wreckage and guests and staff ran for cover from shattered glass and flames.

The massive explosion is said to have been heard 15km (9 miles) away.


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