The bombing of the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad, which has left up to 60 people confirmed dead and hundreds injured, is likely to have been carried out or supported by Al Qaeda, according to a US intelligence official.
A truck, already on fire and thought to have been packed with explosives, blew up in front of the building.
The casualty count could have been far worse. Security guards had time to warn guests to go to the back of the hotel. Minutes earlier there had been hundreds of people in a now-destroyed banquet hall.
One American is known to be among the dead. A Danish diplomat is missing, as are members of a Saudi airline crew. More than a dozen other foreigners were injured.
Just hours earlier Pakistan’s new President, Asif Ali Zadari, said suicide bombings were an “epidemic”.
He called on parliament to do more to root out the terrorists.
Pakistan’s army is in the midst of a major offensive against Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters near the Afghan border.
US forces are also launching attacks on Muslim fundamentalists from Afghanistan.