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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
09PESHAWAR125
2009-06-10 11:42:00
SECRET
Consulate Peshawar
Cable title:  

EXPLOSION AT PESHAWAR'S PEARL CONTINENTAL HOTEL

Tags:   PTER  ASEC  CASC  ABLD  MOPS  PK 
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VZCZCXRO5197
OO RUEHLH RUEHPW
DE RUEHPW #0125/01 1611142
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
O 101142Z JUN 09
FM AMCONSUL PESHAWAR
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8045
INFO RUEHIL/AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD IMMEDIATE 4818
RUEHLH/AMCONSUL LAHORE IMMEDIATE 1922
RUEHKP/AMCONSUL KARACHI IMMEDIATE 1930
RUEHBUL/AMEMBASSY KABUL IMMEDIATE 1556
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI IMMEDIATE 1192
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA IMMEDIATE 0774
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON IMMEDIATE 0958
RUEHTC/AMEMBASSY THE HAGUE IMMEDIATE 0823
RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO IMMEDIATE 0774
RUEHOT/AMEMBASSY OTTAWA IMMEDIATE 0868
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC
RHMFISS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC
RHMFISS/CDR USSOCOM MACDILL AFB FL
RHMFISS/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
RUEHPW/AMCONSUL PESHAWAR 5110
						S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 PESHAWAR 000125 

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 6/10/2019
TAGS: PTER ASEC CASC ABLD MOPS PK
SUBJECT: EXPLOSION AT PESHAWAR'S PEARL CONTINENTAL HOTEL

CLASSIFIED BY: Lynne Tracy, Principal Officer, U.S. Consulate
Peshawar, Department of State.
REASON: 1.4 (d)
Summary
-------

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 PESHAWAR 000125

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 6/10/2019
TAGS: PTER ASEC CASC ABLD MOPS PK
SUBJECT: EXPLOSION AT PESHAWAR'S PEARL CONTINENTAL HOTEL

CLASSIFIED BY: Lynne Tracy, Principal Officer, U.S. Consulate
Peshawar, Department of State.
REASON: 1.4 (d)
Summary
--------------


1. (C) Amid strong condemnation from senior Northwest Frontier
Province (NWFP) officials, local authorities are sifting through
the debris of Peshawar's Pearl Continental (PC) Hotel in the
wake of a June 10 explosion that left at least 15 dead and over
50 injured. Contrary to initial reports of an attack on
security personnel at entrance, local security camera footage
indicates the vehicle reportedly carrying 500 kg of explosives
was able enter the hotel grounds unimpeded. (Note: We assess
the amount of explosives may have been substantially less than
the 500 kg estimate.) The detonation on the western side of the
hotel left a crater 6 feet deep and 15 feet wide. President
Zardari called the Ambassador to express concern about the
status of American personnel in Peshawar.


2. (C) The Consulate will remain open but is limiting its
movements to essential business through June 11 as post assesses
the attack and local security environment. While there have
been no claims of responsibility, the attack will almost
certainly increase concerns about the vulnerability of nearby
government facilities to attack. Post's Regional Security
Office (RSO) was able to gain access to the site and has
conducted an initial damage survey (to be transmitted
separately). Any conclusions about the impact on our plans to
acquire the PC property for a future Consulate site would be
premature at this stage. End Summary.

Explosion at the PC Hotel
--------------


3. (U) At approximately 2230 (local), a vehicle packed with
explosives detonated in the parking lot located on the west side
of the PC Hotel. The blast which shook the windows of the
Consulate compound approximately 2 km east of the hotel was
heard across the city. Initial pictures show a collapse of some
of the hotel's exterior western wall adjacent to the blast.


4. (C) Contrary to initial reports of a gun battle at the PC's

entrance on Khyber Road, local television is running footage
from the hotel's security camera that show what appears to be a
lead vehicle (sedan) followed by a small truck entering without
challenge or screening. Guards at the entrance appear to be
running away as the vehicles turn onto the PC's driveway. Post
understands that some of the PC guards have been arrested.

Casualties
--------------


5. (SBU) According to local authorities, the attack left at
least 15 dead and over 50 injured. (Note: There are
conflicting estimates being offered, ranging from 15 to 20.
This is not unusual given the chaos surrounding scene, and local
tradition of burying bodies quickly after death, making accuracy
in mass casualty attacks in Pakistan difficult.) Most of the
casualties were Pakistani nationals, including the PC General
Manager who was recently posted to Peshawar. Two NWFP
politicians were injured in the attack. UN contacts report that
one UNHCR employee (Serbian, initially reported as "Russian")
and one UNICEF employee (Filipino) were killed and one WFP
employee (United Kingdom) was seriously wounded. Three other UN
staff sustained minor injuries. There have been no reports of
American casualties. No Consulate personnel were at the PC at
the time of the explosion. (Note: Post policy prohibits
overnight stays at the PC, but has permitted since February some
tightly controlled limited use of the hotel.)

Post-Blast Assistance
--------------


6. (C) Host government officials have accepted Consulate's offer
of post-blast investigation assistance. An FBI post-blast
investigation team out of Islamabad will travel to Peshawar to
provide immediate investigative assistance. Local authorities
have accepted additional jersey barriers from the Consulate.
However, it is unclear whether the barriers will be properly

PESHAWAR 00000125 002 OF 002


positioned in a manner that enhances security. Most local
jersey barrier arrangements remain vulnerable to being pushed
aside by larger vehicles because the barriers are not
well-anchored.

Limiting Movements
--------------


7. (SBU) The Consulate will remain open, but post is limiting
its movements to essential business only through June 11 to
assess the attack and local security environment. Embassy
Islamabad released a warden notice to this effect on June 10.
Embassy UN contacts report that all UN personnel are being
pulled back to Islamabad while the UN assesses its Peshawar
footprint.

Comment
--------------


8. (S/NF) While there have been no claims of responsibility,
militants have been promising retaliation for operations in
Swat. Key local officials view Baitullah Mehsud as the likely
author. The casualty count of the PC attack is not as high as
other bombings in Peshawar and elsewhere in the NWFP. A
December 2008 suicide attack in Peshawar's Old City left over 50
dead. However, the symbolic value of hitting such a high
profile target so close to Peshawar's relatively well-guarded
cantonment area of government and military offices is
substantial. The NWFP Provincial Assembly and Peshawar's
judicial complex are directly across the street from the PC.
The 11th Corps Commander's residence and grounds are directly
adjacent to the western side of the PC where the explosion took
place. Militant penetration with such a substantial load of
explosives so close to these facilities will almost certainly
increase concerns about the cantonment's vulnerability to
attack. Those concerns will be only further reinforced by the
apparent weaknesses in security at the PC.
TRACY