60 dead in suicide attack in Islamabad; Gordon Brown in Islamabad; Negroponte: Unilateral actions will not curb militancy; Boucher calls for reforms in ISI; Peace talks in Swat fail
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  • In what is being termed as ‘Pakistan’s 9/11,’ at least 60 people were killed and hundreds injured in a suicide attack at the Marriott hotel in Islamabad on September 20. The incident took place a short while after the newly-elected President Asif Zardari addressed the Parliament. A truck full of explosives slammed into the hotel premises located in a high security zone of the capital1. Reports also suggested that the actual target of the truck bomb was the Parliament building where civil and military leaders had gathered for Zardari’s address2.

    President Zardari met British Prime Minister Gordon Brown in Islamabad on September 16. Both leaders discussed among other issues, the ongoing US strikes in the tribal regions bordering Afghanistan and the rising discontentment due to the death of civilians in US missile strikes3. In a related development, US Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman, Michael Mullen visited Islamabad during the week. He reiterated the US commitment to respect the sovereignty of Pakistan. Islamabad had earlier expressed strong reservations against unilateral US air strikes4. US Deputy Secretary of State, John Negroponte, in a statement in Washington on September 18, also noted that “unilateral actions cannot defeat militants in Pakistan5.”

    US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, Richard Boucher on September 15 voiced apprehensions about possible linkages between the ISI and al-Qaeda. He called on the Pakistani establishment to introduce reforms in the intelligence agency6.

    Meanwhile, ceasefire talks between the army and the Taliban in the Swat region failed7. At least 21 people were killed during security operations in the Bajaur Agency on September 148.