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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The blast at Marriott

The Hindu/22nd Sept, 2008
Chilling images on hotel CCTV footage
Nirupama Subramanian

ISLAMABAD: A five-minute chain of events at the gates of the Marriott Hotel until the moment of Saturday’s blast, which killed 53 persons and injured 266, has been captured in chilling detail by the hotel’s closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras.
On Sunday, Rehman Malik, who functions as Interior Minister, made public the footage from the CCTV, which shows the dumper truck packed with bricks turning into the well-lit security barrier at the main gate of the hotel and trying to gain entry.
“Our experts are saying that he wanted to drive the truck into the lobby. If that had happened it would have been disastrous.”
After what appeared to be a minute during which the truck waited at the security boom — according to officials, there was possibly an argument between the truck driver and security guards over allowing it to enter — there’s a bright flash of light over the windscreen of the truck.
Officials said this was a “first explosion.” Mr. Malik said the flash of light could have come from a possible tyre burst when the guards opened fire at the driver. But media analysts said it was most likely caused by the driver detonating explosives strapped on him. It was impossible to tell from the footage if there was just one person in the truck. The CCTV footage shows cars whizzing past the hotel as this first explosion took place. The guards scattered as it occurred, but some returned thinking the worst was over. With exceptional calm, one guard took out a fire extinguisher from near the barrier and started squirting it on the fire in the front portion of the truck. By this time, thick white smoke had begun emanating from the back of the truck. The footage stops when the guard with the fire extinguisher suddenly decides to run.
Mr. Malik, who also raised the possibility that the driver abandoned the vehicle in the seconds before the blast, said the footage was a “valuable” bit of evidence and investigators were closely studying it for clues.

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