ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — A suicide bomber detonated a dump truck packed with a ton of explosives outside the Marriott in Pakistan's capital Saturday, setting off a fiery blast that shattered the luxury hotel, killed at least 38 people and wounded hundreds, officials and witnesses said.
The targeting of the American hotel chain was one of the largest terrorist attacks ever in Pakistan and came at a time of growing anger in Pakistan over a wave of cross-border strikes on militant bases by U.S. forces in Afghanistan. At least one American was killed and several were wounded.
Information Minister Sherry Rehman said about 250 people were wounded.
The five-story Marriott had been a favorite spot for foreigners as well as Pakistani politicians and business people to stay and socialize in Islamabad despite repeated militant attacks on it. The bomb went off close to 8 p.m., when four restaurants inside would have been packed with diners at the hour that Muslims break their daily fast during the holy month of Ramadan.
The bomb left a crater about 30 feet deep in front of the building, where rescuers ferried a stream of bloodied bodies. The fire was still burning more than six hours after the blast and had gutted the hotel. The death toll was likely to rise once the flames are extinguished and rescuers can thoroughly search the devastation.
The bombing came just hours after President Asif Ali Zardari made his first address to Parliament, less than a mile away from the hotel, and days ahead of the new leader's meeting with President Bush on Tuesday in New York on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly.
Rehman Malik, the head of the Interior Ministry, said it was unclear who was behind the attack and there had been no claim of responsibility.
Analysts said the attack was a warning from Islamic extremists to the new civilian leadership of Pakistan that it should end already-strained cooperation with the United States to pursue al-Qaida and Taliban militants in the lawless tribal region along the border with Afghanistan.
Senior police official Asghar Raza Gardaizi estimated the truck carried more than 2,200 pounds of explosives.