Pakistan Says Banned Group Helped Plan Attack on Hotel
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — A Sunni Muslim extremist group believed to have been involved in the 2002 abduction and murder of the journalist Daniel Pearl helped carry out the Marriott Hotel bombing in Islamabad three months ago that killed more than 50 people, according to a top Pakistani official.
The official, Rehman Malik, the government’s senior interior adviser, said that the group, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, which was banned by Pakistan in 2001 and classified by the State Department as a foreign terrorist organization, helped organize the Sept. 20 bombing, which deeply shook the confidence of Pakistanis by demonstrating that extremists could perpetrate large-scale attacks close to the seat of power in Islamabad, the capital.
Mr. Malik’s comments on the bombing to the Pakistani National Assembly on Monday represented the first time that the government had formally laid blame for the attack with a specific organization. He had previously suggested that Taliban militants operating from Pakistan’s lawless western tribal lands might have been behind the bombing.Mr. Malik also told the legislators that two men from Toba Tek Singh in Punjab Province had been taken into custody and that the investigation was complete.
According to an investigator, a man associated with Lashkar-e-Jhangvi drove the truck used in the bombing from the town of Jhang, where it had been loaded with explosives, to Islamabad, where the keys were given to a suicide bomber.
The motive for the attack was hatred for Americans, said the investigator, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the secrecy involved in the inquiry. Other officials have speculated that the bombing was in retaliation for airstrikes in Taliban-held western tribal areas by remotely controlled American planes, or for recent Pakistani military operations against militants there.
The driver drove the truck to Islamabad slowly, according to the investigator, making frequent stops to avoid detection. Once in Islamabad, he gave the keys to the suicide bomber, a 22-year-old Afghan named Zakirullah, who drove the truck to the hotel, the investigator said.The militants chose the Marriott as the target because they thought a large number of American marines were staying there, but most of the marines had checked out the day before the attack, the investigator said. Lashkar-e-Jhangvi has long had a reputation for carrying out bloody attacks, especially against Shiite Muslims in Pakistan. In 2003, when Secretary of State Colin L. Powell designated the group as a foreign terrorist organization, he said that its involvement in the kidnapping and killing of Mr. Pearl, a Wall Street Journal correspondent, in 2002 “has been confirmed.”