By Faryal Leghari
Researcher Security & Terrorism Studies
Gulf Research Center
On Saturday, September 20, 2008, Islamabad witnessed one of the most horrific suicide attacks in Pakistan’s history, which targeted the Marriott hotel less then two kilometers away from the Parliament, the Presidency and the Prime minister’s house. As an explosive laden truck detonated at the barricade set up at the hotel’s entrance, it caused a powerful explosion that left more than 60 dead and 250 injured, among them many foreign nationals including Libyans, Saudis, Turks, British, Germans, Danes and Americans. The Czech ambassador and two American Marines were among those killed.
While Pakistan has faced other high level attacks in the past, this attack marked a new chapter in terrorism in Pakistan. More importantly, this attack was planned to coincide with the President Zardari’s first parliamentary address. There is strong reason to believe that the hotel was a secondary target and the original target was the parliament where the top political and military leadership had gathered for the address. Due to two crucial security checkpoints and the high alert in force near the parliament, the attacker instead decided to zero in on the hotel that was considered a high-value target catering as it did to the political, diplomatic and the civilian elite.
The message that the attack intended to deliver was directed at the United States, the government and the public. It has resonated loud and clear and echoes the anger building up over the spate of air strikes and the ground operation (on September 3 ) of US forces at Angoor ada inside Pakistan. In retrospect, this attack should not come as a surprise because warnings of reprisals had been repeatedly issued by the militants from FATA. The surprise element of this attack was in its planning and operation.
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