Blast outside Mariot hotel in Islamabad
A car bomb exploded outside the Marriott in the Pakistani capital Islamabad on Saturday, killing at least 40 people and starting a fire which swept through the hotel.
The explosion happened hours after new President Asif Ali Zardari, widower of assassinated former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, made his first address to a joint sitting of Parliament.
"A car laden with explosives rammed the gate at the Marriott and so far we have brought out 40 dead bodies, but the number could well be higher," police chief Asghar Raza Gardazi said.
Television pictures showed flames and smoke pouring out of the 290-room hotel, located close to the city centre and popular with tourists. A senior official said it appeared to have been a suicide attack.
The blast brought down the ceiling in a banquet room where there were about 200 to 300 people at a meal to break the fast during the holy month of Ramadan.
Imtiaz Gul, a journalist, was among them.
"We just ran for cover, I could see a lot of injured people lying around me," Gul said.
Zardari has pledged to fight Islamist militants who have been blamed for a string of bomb attacks in the country.
But he told Parliament that Pakistan would not tolerate any infringement of its territory in the name of the fight against militants. A series of US strikes on militants along the Pakistan-Afghan border have infuriated many Pakistanis.
Zardari won a presidential election this month to replace US ally Pervez Musharraf, who stepped down in August under threat of impeachment.