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June 09, 2009

Bombing in Peshawar
Posted by Patrick Barry

Major news outlets are reporting an organized attack and bombing of the Pearl Hotel in Peshawar.  The New York Times describes the scene:

A powerful explosion Friday outside a five-star hotel in the northwestern city of Peshawar killed at least five people and wounded 25, Pakistani officials.

The blast was powerful enough to be heard for miles, witnesses said, and television images showed wounded people, with blood stained clothes, being helped out of the smoke filled lobby of the hotel, the Pearl Continental, which is one of the few major hotels in the city that cater to Western visitors.


The Times points out that the bombing could be the latest in a string of insurgent attacks in response to Pakistan's military offensive in Swat, as it bears strong resemblance to last month's highly coordinated strike on a Pakistani intelligence office last month.  After that incident, Reuters reported this warning from Beitullah Mehsud deputy Hakimillah Mehsud: "We [The Pakistani Taliban] want the people of Lahore, Rawalpindi, Islamabad and Multan to leave those cities as we plan major attacks against government facilities in coming days and weeks."

It seems equally possible however that this attack was also meant to convey a message to Western audiences.  Not only is the Pearl Hotel popular among westerners, but McClatchy story last month reported a State department official describing U.S. plans to purchase the hotel and convert it to a super consulate that would serve as a base for "intelligence gathering," and "expanded U.S. aid programs."  Under this line of thinking, the Peshawar bombing would represent the most significant attempt by the insurgents in the post-Swat offensive period to drive a wedge between the Pakistani government and their U.S. backers

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Comments

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Hi Patrick,

"It seems equally possible". I'm not sure it does, although kudos on remembering the connection. That prospective purchase was a goodly way off while the hotel is a major Pakistani establishment landmark *now*. It's not always all about us. But even if it was, I'm still unclear how it would be "the most significant attempt by the insurgents in the post-Swat offensive period to drive a wedge between the Pakistani government and their U.S. backers". I can't see how blowing up something important to both obviously does that. Could you explain for my dense brain?

Regards, Steve

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