British Airways has suspended all flights to Pakistan following the bombing of the Marriott hotel in Islamabad, which has been described as “Pakistan’s 9/11”.
“We have temporarily suspended our flight operations in Pakistan following Saturday’s suicide attack,” a BA spokesman said. “The safety of our customers, crew and aircraft is of paramount importance.“The announcement came as rescuers continued to pick their way through the ruins of the hotel complex in the Pakistani capital.
At least 60 people were killed and 266 wounded on Saturday evening when a suicide attacker rammed a truck containing 600kg of explosives into the gates of the flagship hotel, which was popular with dignitaries and Pakistan’s elite.
Among the dead were Czech ambassador, Ivo Zdarek, as well as two US defence department employees. Three staff of the British high commission in the city were among the injured.
The bombing happened after dusk, when hundreds of people were eating in several restaurants inside the hotel.
The British embassy in the city, one of the largest in the world and employing 150 British workers, was functioning as normal today.
British prime minister, Gordon Brown, told Sky News: “We already work with the Pakistan government in giving help with counter-terrorism operations; we will continue to do that.”
“But, as I was saying to the president of Pakistan a few days ago, we are going to have to step up the cooperation between our two countries, and with other countries, so that we can deal with this terrorist threat.”
The blast occurred at the hotel just days after the new president, Asif Ali Zardari, visited 10 Downing Street for talks.
It also comes against a backdrop of increasing tension between the US and Pakistan as American ground troops have spread into Pakistani territory from Afghanistan to fight militants without permission from Islamabad.
Pakistani security services have recently stepped up military action against al-Qaida and Taliban forces along the Afghan border.