Suspected suicide blast at upscale hotel in Pakistani capital kills one

A suspected suicide attacker set off a bomb Friday at the entrance to the nightclub at Islamabad's Marriott Hotel, killing a security guard and wounding at least seven other people, officials said.

Scores of police cordoned off the scene of the blast on a side of the multistory hotel, which is located downtown near the Parliament building and the office of the president.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

Interior Minister Aftab Khan Sherpao said the "brave and timely action by the hotel guards prevented a major attack, as the suicide bomber could not enter the hotel building, which seemed to be his target."

Sherpao said the explosion was the work of "anti-state elements who want to create unrest," but declined to be more specific.

President Gen. Pervez Musharraf condemned the bombing and reiterated Pakistan's "unwavering commitment in the fight against extremism and terrorism," the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan said.

An intelligence official at the scene identified the dead security guard as Mohammed Tariq and said that at least seven people were wounded. He requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

Pakistan has suffered numerous bombings in recent years, often by Islamic militants angered by its support of the U.S.-led war on terrorism, although such attacks in the federal capital are comparatively rare.

Last week, a pro-Taliban militant leader in the remote tribal region of South Waziristan vowed to avenge a Pakistani airstrike on a suspected al-Qaida hideout near the Afghan border that killed at least eight people.

Rana Najam, a housekeeping manager at the hotel, said witnesses told him that they saw a man running toward the side entrance of the hotel, where he was stopped by a security guard. The man then detonated explosives, killing himself and the guard, he said.

Police official Abdul Ghaffar said one other hotel guard was in a critical condition.

Police used wooden boards and white sheets to seal off the bomb site, but an Associated Press reporter could see that a side entrance to the hotel used for access to the nightclub was badly damaged.

Two shoes and strips of clothes could be seen among lumps of masonry strewn across a road near the side entrance. Windshields of two cars parked nearby were shattered, reports AP.

Police swung batons in a clash with reporters covering the scene of the bombing. Local journalists staged a noisy demonstration to protest.

The hotel, often frequented by Islamabad's foreign community, was targeted in an October 2004 bombing that wounded several people. There were no reports of foreigners hurt in Friday's blast.

The last major terrorist attack in the city was in May 2005, when a suicide bomber killed 20 people in a crowded Muslim shrine.

Security is already high in Islamabad and the rest of Pakistan amid fears of sectarian violence between Shiite and Sunni Muslims during Ashoura, a Shiite religious festival starting Monday.

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