ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - A massive truck bomb devastated the heavily guarded Marriott Hotel in Pakistan's capital Saturday, killing at least 40 people and wounding at least 100. Officials feared there were dozens more dead inside the burning building.
The Marriott has been a favorite place for foreigners as well as Pakistani politicians and business people to stay and socialize in Islamabad despite repeated militant attacks.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast, buthas faced a wave of militant violence in recent weeks following army-led offensives against insurgents in its border regions.
The capital has not been spared, though Saturday's blast appeared to be one of the largest ever terrorist attacks in the country.
The bomb left a vast crater, some 30 feet deep in front of the main building, where flames poured from the windows and rescuers ferried bloodied bodies from the gutted building.
Witnesses and officials said a large truck had rammed the high metal gate of the hotel at about 8 p.m., when the restaurants would have been packed with dinners, including Muslims breaking the Ramadan fast.
Senior Police official Asghar Raza Gardaizi said rescuers had counted at least 40 bodies at the scene and that he feared that there "dozens more dead inside."
Associated Press reporters saw at least nine bodies scattered at the scene. Scores of people, including foreigners, were running out — some of them stained with blood.
Witnesses spoke of a smaller blast followed by a much larger one.
A U.S. State Department official using a section of white pipe as a walking stick led three colleagues through the rubble from the charred building, one of them bleeding heavily from a wound on the side of his head.
One of the four, who identified himself only as Tony, said they had begun moving toward the rear of the Chinese restaurant after the first blast when the second one threw them against the back wall.
"Then we saw a big truck coming through the gates," he said. "After that it was just smoke and darkness."
Ambulances rushed to the area, picking their way through the charred carcasses of vehicles that had been in the street outside. Windows in buildings hundreds of yards away were shattered.
Mohammad Sultan, a hotel employee, said he was in the lobby when something exploded, he fell down and everything temporarily went dark.
"I didn't understand what it was, but it was like the world is finished," he said.
In January 2007, a security guard blocked awho triggered a blast just outside the Marriott, killing the guard and wounding seven other people.
In July, a suicide bombing killed at least 18 people, most of them security forces, and wounded dozens in Islamabad as supporters of the Red Mosque gathered nearby to mark the anniversary of the military siege on the militant stronghold.
In June, a suicide car bomber killed at least six people near the Danish Embassy in Islamabad. A statement attributed to al-Qaida took responsibility for that blast, believed to have targeted Denmark over the publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad.
In mid-March, a bomb explosion at an Italian restaurant killed a Turkish woman in the capital, and wounded 12 others, including four FBI officials.
Associated Press writers, Stephen Graham and Munir Ahmad in Islamabad contributed to this report.