Yesterday’s embassies are today’s hotels.  The threat against diplomatic targets persists, but due to target hardening, the terrorists seek to attack international hotels.  As Westerners frequent such hotels, they should be considered second embassies.  Failure to understand the threat and creatively secure international hotels, especially in conflict zones, could lead to loss of life, property and business.

Since the beginning of the current wave of terrorism on September 11, 2001, the damage to the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad on September 20, 2008 is the worst terrorist attack on an international hotel.  The attack, originating from the Afghan-Pakistan border, the global epicenter of terrorism, demonstrated the recurrent and growing threat to the international hospitality industry.

Islamabad Marriott Hotel

The Context

During the past five years, the Marriot in Islamabad suffered three terrorist attacks. An explosives-laden laptop in the lobby injured seven persons in October, 2004.  The assassination targeted a VIP who escaped.  Two years and three months after, the terrorists attacked the Marriott just hours before an Indian High Commission function to celebrate Republic Day. At the side entrance leading towards the Marriott’s basement nightclub, a suicide bomber, intercepted by a security guard, exploded, killing a security guard and injuring five others in January 2007.[1] The most recent attack killed 56, injured 265, and burnt the majority and upper floor rooms.  Off 56 reported deaths, 30 were hotel associates.  A majority - 17 - were hotel security personnel.  The valet driver, a doorman, two from the engineering department, and the front desk duty manager also died.  Along with many others, the manager of food, beverages and banquet sales who was in the porte cochere was badly injured.  There were five registered guests killed - two Americans including an Air Force Maj. Rodolfo I. Rodriguez, 34, Danish security and intelligence officer Karsten Krabbe, the Czech Ambassador Ivo Zdarek, and his Vietnamese partner.  Eight persons were killed off–property.  Fourteen non-registered guests died - one of them an American.

Despite a 132-foot setback from the gate to the hotel, the explosion caused unprecedented devastation.  The standard rule is for diplomatic and other high value targets to maintain a stand-off distance of 100 feet from the public.  Had the fortified gate not prevented the suicide truck from entering the hotel compound, the fatalities and injuries would have increased dramatically.  Chief of Security for the hotel, Major Tahir Qureshi said, “If not for the barrier, there would have been 1000 casualties.”[2] At the time of the bombing, there were upwards of fifteen hundred people in the hotel.   Most of them were non-registered guests who were there to celebrate Iftar - the breaking of the fast, practiced during the Ramadan period when Muslims fast all day.   The restaurants were full and the main ballroom was open for a buffet.  Major Qureshi added, “We never thought of this type of attack.  It is like an unconventional attack.  As if there were chemicals, there was a lightening effect.  Everything exposed to the fireball was burnt from the hotel, the cars and even trees.  It is the worst explosion Pakistan has seen.”  The explosion heard 30 kilometers (18 miles) away created a deep crater 59 by 25 feet and igniting a fire that burned for two days.

On that fateful day, the entire Pakistani leadership – President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, Speaker of the National Assembly, and Army Chief – and other important figures were feted to have dinner at the Marriott.  A major tragedy for Pakistan was averted at the last minute when the venue of the dinner was changed to the Prime Minister’s house.  The Interior Ministry announced after the attack that it had received a non-specific warning of an attack.[4] On a visit to Washington, D.C. immediately after the bombing, Zardari commented, "I was supposed to be there with my prime minister, with my speaker, with a lot of us.  Just by chance that it was changed."[5] Pakistani authorities are investigating if there was a leak.  Although low-ranking military personnel were involved in two assassination attempts of General Musharraf, it is unlikely that the terrorists received prior information about the dinner plans of the Pakistani leadership on September 20.  The plans made by the Speaker were kept secret – even the hotel was not informed.

Epicentre of the Explosion

Distribution of Suicide Attacks in Pakistan, 2002-8

At fifty-five seconds past 7:54 PM on September 20, 2008, an explosives-laden suicide truck turned into the drive way of the Islamabad Marriott.  Instead of running away, two security guards at the checkpoint barrier braced themselves with what could be a traffic accident.  The headlights of the truck were on full beam, causing anyone observing the approach to look away or be blinded by the lights.  The headlights masked the truck, making it difficult to appreciate what exactly was happening.  The body container carrying 600 kg (1,320 lb) of explosives including artillery shells, mortar bombs and shrapnel, oversized the truck cab.  The truck swung around in a small arc with the driver’s side closest to the security booth, then straightened full-on towards the delta barrier and arm gate with headlights still on full beam. While one guard remained in position, the second guard stepped back quickly under a large tree as the truck went through the trolley wheel barrier.

The truck smashed into the Delta barriers and leaned to nearside.  The front two wheels went over the top of the Delta barrier with the nearside wheel appearing to puncture.  The front of the cab hit the arm gate barrier which held in position.  The front axle and wheels of the cab hooked over the Delta barrier, resulting in the truck becoming unable to move forward or reverse. Security worked - the Delta barrier contained the vehicle. As there was no movement from within cab, there was no action by security guards, apparently standing off and assessing.  Their first action was completely consistent with someone thinking that they are witnessing a road traffic accident.  The body language of the security personnel did not display a reaction consistent with anyone shooting or firing shots from or at the truck.

Surrounded by approaching security guards, the suicide driver could not move the truck stuck on the Delta barrier.  As the bomber saw that he couldn't reach the intended target of the hotel building, he took the next best option of detonating the truck at the gate; thirteen seconds after the impact on the Delta barrier, he initiated an explosion from within the cab area of truck. The detonation by the bomber did not immediately initiate the larger charge in the truck.  Although the rigged explosives device malfunctioned, it incapacitated the bomber instantly and caused a fire inside the cab area of the truck.[6] The security officers backed off – they went off camera, the most credible device of recording the events on that day.

After forming a cordon to restrain spectators from approaching the vehicle, the security personnel informed the CCTV operator inside the hotel.  The fire brigade was called. The first explosion of bright white light was distinct from a typical engine on fire, but the security guards responded to it as if it was an automobile fire. While waiting for the fire brigade, the guards decide the fight the fire themselves. As there was no extinguisher at the security booth, an engineer brought one from inside the hotel in attempts to put it out from the front. The extinguisher, once activated, appears not to dampen, but escalate the burning with intense bright light.

It was obvious from their body language that no one thought the vehicle contained a bomb.  As there were bricks on the back of the vehicle concealing the explosives, the truck deceived the security personnel and other hotel staff at the gate.

The Threat and Response

As Pakistan faced a very high threat from terrorism, the Marriot Islamabad was exceptionally well protected.  Previously, Islamabad had suffered 10 suicide attacks starting with the bombing of the Egyptian Embassy on November 19, 1995 killing 14 persons.  All the other nine attacks were after May, 2006.  Since then, the first attack that targeted Westerners occurred on March 15, 2008.  One foreigner was killed and 15 persons were injured when a suicide bomber targeted an Italian restaurant.  On June 2, 2008, an al-Qaeda member from Saudi Arabia in a suicide vehicle targeted the Danish Embassy, killing six and injuring 25.[7] As such, the threat to Western nationals was well established in the lead up to the Marriott attack.  The bombing of Islamabad’s Marriott was described both by the US State Department and Pakistani media as Pakistan’s 9-11 as the worst terrorist attack in Islamabad.

Marriott Islamabad was the world’s most protected hotel until September 20, 2008. One of the two five-star hotels operating in the Federal Capital, Marriott Islamabad complied with the security standards established by Marriott International.  With a full-bodied security system, developed by Marriott’s Global Vice President for Security Alan Orlob for its hotels worldwide 15 years ago, the Marriott chain was considered the safest.  Orlob said: “Marriott has a robust crisis management program.  We employ two full-time analysts - one in Washington and based in Hong Kong - to assess security conditions on a world-wide basis.  When we determine that a threat exists, hotels are directed to employ prescribed counter measures in three tiers - blue, yellow and red.  We audit compliance with these procedures, or ‘threat conditions’, using a third party auditor.”[8] At the time of the attack, the Marriott in Islamabad was operating at “Threat Condition Red”.  Included in “Threat Condition Red” is (a) mandatory vehicle inspections, (b) luggage inspections and (c) metal detector screening of personnel.  The hotel had been audited the month before and had been shown to be in 100% compliance.  However, the terrorist attack mounted against Marriott Islamabad was unprecedented in its destructive force.

At the time of the attack, hotel security was robust. Scrutiny of CCTV footage, as well as interviews with survivors and government investigators, demonstrates the operation of effective security procedures and vigilance prior to the incident.  In a 290-room hotel, the occupancy at the time of the attack was 47%.  The hotel was protected by 196 hotel security personnel and four bomb-sniffing dogs.  At the time of the attack, 60 hotel security personnel, a government intelligence officer, four policemen, and one sniffer dog were on shift.  Most of the victims killed were security personnel, drivers, and other hotel employees.  The security of the hotel is not outsourced but managed by Karakoram, the hotel’s own security company led by Colonel Zulficar.  The Chief of Security for the hotel, Major Tahir Qureshi said, “I have lost my entire evening shift.  I have lost 17 security guards and officers including my deputy.  Fourteen were injured and five seriously.  They included the assistant chief security officer, a security officer, three assistant security officers, and 12 guards. They were excellent and outstanding, loyal and dedicated.”[9]  He added: “In addition, two government security officers assigned to the hotel were killed.  They were from the Intelligence Bureau and traffic police.”  Most of the security personnel serving at the hotel, including Major Quresh, were formerly with the military.[11]

Over the years, the hotel enhanced its security.  Security personnel were armed with shotguns on both sides of the entrance to the property.  The security supervisors were armed with hand guns.  New bollards had been placed alongside the street, pushing the standoff out.  There were plain-clothes security personnel conducting surveillance detection. There was an officer from the Special Branch of Pakistan stationed at the vehicle checkpoint.  He called the attack in when the truck first struck the Delta barrier.

Prior to the attack, the security consisted of 62 CCTV cameras, which are always monitored by three security officers.  The hotel placed window film on all public areas.  In March 2008, the vehicle inspection area was enhanced.  Included in that security enhancement was a combination of a drop-down and hydraulic Delta barriers.  It had under-vehicle cameras which were visible on a monitor in the security booth.  These cameras were recorded on a stand-alone CCTV in the booth. Additional cameras recorded the vehicles with license plate

The Incident

The CCTV camera recording of events at the main entrance to the hotel provides invaluable details of the event. Of the two gate entrances to the hotel - Gate 1 and Gate 2, the truck rammed Gate 2. Separating the gates is a hedge, obscuring a security booth, where a CCTV operator monitored the underside of vehicles at the check point barrier.[12]

Physical security of the gates consisted of a single trolley barrier at each gate.  This small barrier on wheels indicated to the drivers that a security check point was ahead and he ought to slow down.  As the car slowed down, the security guard wheeled the trolley barrier to one side.  The car then moved slowly up to the Delta barrier in a position adjacent to the security booth.  While the guard who wheeled the trolley barrier then opened the trunk (boot) of the car, another guard inside the booth screened the underside of the car with the fixed underside CCTV camera.  Another guard spoke to the driver and looked into the inside of the vehicle.  If all was good, the guard inside the booth should operate the Delta barrier to lower.  Directly in front of the delta barrier was a heavy-duty arm gate barrier - as the Delta barrier lowered the arm gate barrier was raised manually with a rope.  As the vehicle cleared the arm gate barrier, the Delta barrier raised and the trolley barrier rolled back into place.

Prior to the arrival of the truck, CCTV footage demonstrates that the physical security barriers were operational.  The security officers were following standard procedures and acting with vigilance and observation with at least two officers maintaining constant observation of oncoming traffic.  In addition to the policeman, a sniffer dog was positioned between the two gate entrances. When the attack took place, the CCTV control room by the main loading dock operator went into full swing.  After the initial explosion, the CCTV operator informed the assistant chief security officer. He sat next to the operator in the control room and watched the developments before moving to the gate to take charge of the situation.  The Security Chief, Major Qureshi was not at the site during the attack, but returned to lead the rescue and relief operations.[13]

The security personnel initially thought that it was an accident. The driver was on fire. “The body was in one whole piece but on fire.”  If he detonated a grenade or a suicide belt/vest, the body would not be intact. The CCTV controller and supervisor on duty in the hotel security control room who heard conversations during the two minutes when everyone was standing back from the truck said the driver was on fire ,but appeared to have died instantly during the first explosion in the cab. As the driver was apparently dead, the truck had not blown up, and the fire appeared to be going out, the security and hotel emergency response team waited for the police.  Their understanding was that the incident was now under the supervision of the police and they were awaiting further instruction.

Key actions, minutes after the suicide truck approached the target, identify seven security personnel at various times in the video. While the suicide vehicle was stuck at the barrier, vehicles, bicycles, and pedestrians passed on the main road.  Although the security personnel did not block the access road to the hotel entrance, with the help of the door men and other staff, they formed a cordon in front of the hotel.  The front entrance video does not show this effort, but the cordon saved lives.[14] The initial explosion gave sufficient warning for the emergency team to move the guests to safe areas.  The emergency teams consisted of non-security staff trained by security staff that would assist in a crises.  There were many that perished from the fire.  The Czech Ambassador was injured after the explosion, but alive.  He called for help.  But the intensity of the fire prevented the rescue teams from reaching him.[16]  The Ambassador was living on an upper floor of the hotel.  He phoned the embassy to rescue him, but was engulfed by the fire before rescue teams reached him.

Although during Ramadan, there was no 'weakness' or dilution of security procedures at the time of the incident,[17] the most glaring security lapse was the failure by the government to have allowed a truck full of explosives to enter the high security zone. Furthermore, government response was too slow. Although the hotel is located on the edge of the security Red Zone, police and emergency support did not arrive prior to the main blast.  From the time people reappeared to tackle the incident following the two-minute standoff, to the final explosion, there were 25 vehicles driving past the scene at various intervals, totalling around 40 vehicles from the start of the incident.  The traffic police officer on duty, who saw the initial crash and first explosion, radioed this information to his HQ.  Within this crucial seven minutes, the Assistant Chief Security Manager also called for the fire brigade on his cell phone. But, from the time the suicide bomber rammed into the retractable metal barrier and bar at the security checkpoint, until it turned into a fireball, there was no government help.

Although not captured on CCTV, one traffic policeman, an armed Sergeant, three policemen, a plain clothes special branch surveillance officer and one sniffer dog were also on duty.[18] When the vehicle caught fire, the armed Sergeant and three policemen left the site.  When interviewed, the Chief of Security alleged that the police realized it was a bomb and abandoned the target area.[19] While they survived the explosion, the IB officer at the hotel’s porch and the Traffic Sergeant across the road were killed.[20] It was hotel security measures that worked to prevent an even greater loss of life and property.  The anti-terrorist vehicle crash barrier worked effectively to prevent the suicide truck driver from gaining entrance to the hotel’s forecourt and parking area.  The standoff between the gate and the front of the hotel mitigated the effects of the blast.  Had the gate not stalled the truck from gaining access to the hotel compound, the devastation would have been manifolds.

Islamabad Marriott before (left) and after bombing (right)

Jihadi Websites

The jihadi websites celebrated the attack.  One website identified the Delta barrier as the single most important factor that prevented the destruction of the hotel.  The site issued a report on the capabilities of barriers available.

Immediately after the attack, a jihadist posted before and after pictures to a jihadi website.[21] AIG, the insurance giant, and Marriot International, initially believed that the photographs were terrorist pre-surveillance pictures.  After researching the source of the images in the Islamic Falljuah forum, ICPVTR-SITE Institute analysis concluded that the images of the hotel prior to the attack were not related to the attack or used as surveillance photographs.  They appear to come from an album of an individual using Photobucket.[22]

The individual that took the pictures seems to have stayed at the hotel and took pictures from around the hotel, including shots of the bathroom and the bed in the hotel room, and furniture in the hotel, which indicates that it was not done for surveillance purposes.  Furthermore, the same individual posted his Photobucket images of the hotel on the message board on November 10, 2006 (See ), nearly two years before the attack, which also indicates they were not surveillance photos.  A search into this individual reveals that he might be a student of architecture.

A Google image search of the words "islamabad marriott" reveals immediately the same photos of the hotel prior to the attack the same that are posted on Falljuah forum, from the message board with the images from 2006.  The message thread was also updated after the attack with images taken showing the aftermath of the bombing.  Therefore, it seems very likely that "Abu Usama", the user who posted the message with the images on the Falljuah forum, simply did a Google image search for Marriott Hotel in Islamabad, found the message board with all the images of the hotel, both before and after the attack, and then re-posted them to the Falljuah forum.

Unanswered Questions

As in every attack, there are many unanswered questions in the Marriott Islamabad bombing.  As of today, there was no evidence of a gas leak.  As such, the massive fire remains a puzzle.  The Government of Pakistan claimed that the main charge in the IED was RDX and TNT- military explosives.  However, foreign EOD specialists argue that it was a Potassium Chlorate and possibly a Diesel oil bomb.  They argue that the attack modus operandi was similar to the attack on the Danish Embassy in Islamabad, FIA building in Lahore, Hamza camp and Pakistan Air Force, Saragodha attacks. An EOD specialist said:

  “Although the IEDs or VBIEDs that were used were much smaller, the main charge in the Marriott attack was big- possibly 700-800 kilos.  However, because of the very poor placement of the booster charge, the main charge probably only developed around 50% in TNT equivalence.  The Booster charge may have been made from TNT or RDX, but it was so poorly placed that it only managed to start a fire, probably kill the driver, throw-out the front window, some of the explosives and start a fire.    The fire slowly ran the Potassium Chlorate into an explosion, but the explosion did not detonate, but deflagrated.  It did not crush concrete and therefore did not cause damage to the hotel construction.  Instead the IED developed a huge crater.  This is often caused when a big bomb is badly constructed.  The bomb then blows instead of crushing.  The blowing causes the bomb to build a large crater, but no damage to the construction.  In these cases we say that the bomb was slow.  This was also the case with the Danish Embassy and it saved the Embassy.”[23]  

Although al-Qaeda and the Taliban are poor at producing quality VBIEDs, an FBI official said, “When you stand next to one; it does not really matter, you will die. However, it does matter when you move further away or if you are inside a building.”[24]

The perpetrators have not been identified but it is very likely that al-Qaeda and the Taliban are responsible for the attack.  Today, multiple threat groups operate together in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, especially in Waziristan.  As it marked the 9/11 attacks in September, al-Qaeda called for attacks in Pakistan.

The Future of Hospitality Security

Today, Marriott has over 3000 hotels, 331 operating outside the United States, making it one of the world’s largest and most prestigious hotel chains.  Marriott International is the parent group and Marriott Lodging manages Marriott, Renaissance and Courtyard operating outside the US.  Marriot International also owns Marriott Vacation Club and Ritz Carlton.

It was only in 1993 that Marriott started to expand internationally.  At that time, Marriott only had three international hotels.  The only properties Marriott had outside the US were in Cairo Amsterdam, and Athens.  Starting with Latin America, they knew they were going to high-risk countries.  The Marriott Lodgings President came to Alan Orlob, the Vice President for Security and asked him to develop a security plan.  Orlob said:

  “15 years ago when we developed a crisis plan, people said it gathers dust.  But today, it has become a bestseller.  We developed threat conditions.  Two analysts were dedicated to scanning and informing threat 24/7 – when one watched, the other slept.  Three years ago, we knew that an outside audit was necessary to maintain the credibility of the program.  We hired Control risks to audit the hotels.  An announced audit, they use a checklist that we developed.”[25]  

Referring to Marriott Islamabad, Orlob said: “This hotel has always been operating at threat condition red.  A month ago, it was audited and passed 100% compliance.  We have more security at this hotel than most of our hotels in the system.”[26]

Despite the attack against Marriott Islamabad, there is a spirit in the hospitality industry to fight back.  Marriott will continue to look at projects in Iraq and Afghanistan and maintain its presence in Pakistan, the three countries in the world that suffers most from suicide terrorism.  Orob said: “Within the last six months, I visited all the three places: Baghdad (June), Afghanistan (July) and Pakistan (October).”[27] It is likely that the Marriott hotels in Iraq and Afghanistan will be protected to the same degree as the US embassies in Baghdad and Kabul.

Vowing that a new Marriott hotel will rise from the ashes, Sadruddin Hashwani, the owner of Marriott, Islamabad, is determined to start operating on January 1, 2009.[28] Hashwani personally visited and supervised the rebuilding and the refurbishing of the hotel.  Within a week, the lobby was cleared and the workers stated to repaint the premises.  The daughter of Hashwani, Sara, launched the Hashoo Foundation Sahara Fund to provide financial support to the families of the victims.  Sara called them “martyrs.”[29] More than ever before, there is a greater understanding internationally and a will to fight terrorism and extremism within the community.  Although they all realize the limitations to securing hotels in high-risk countries, there is a tremendous will not to give up.

Paradigm Shift in Response Strategy?

When responding to natural and man-made disasters, hotel strategies differ.  While natural disasters are inevitable, vulnerable targets can be protected from terrorist attacks.  Ideally, a hotel’s resources are allocated to manage the consequences of a natural disaster and protecting it from a terrorist attack.

Despite substantial investment, the terrorists were successful in causing a considerable loss of life and property at Marriott Islamabad.  Does Marriott Islamabad case study change the paradigm?  The lesson of Marriott Islamabad is that hotels and other open facilities should operate on the principle that a terrorist attack is inevitable.  In the future, hotels in conflict zones must equally invest to protect as well as to manage consequences.

With international hotels becoming second embassies, hotels alone cannot safeguard their facilities.  No longer can a hotel be protected only by merely securing its perimeter.  To manage their security, hotels must build liaison with law enforcement authorities to protect, intelligence agencies to prevent, and emergency services to manage the crisis after the event.  With 90-95% of the infrastructure owned or operated by the private sector, law enforcement authorities should create a specialist cadre of policemen to work with the private sector.  Government with access to intelligence and specialist resources should guide and assist the private sector including the security industry to develop the specialist understanding and knowledge to prevent, protect and respond.

Lessons Learned

Today, the hospitality industry is facing a dilemma in high-risk countries.  The question is how they can protect a hotel anymore than they already are – how can they add another layer without creating the impression of a fortress?

In addition a security plan to protect the hotel, there should be a robust response action plan.  The focus must be not only to deter and prevent an attack but also to respond when an attack is successful.  During the crucial seven minutes, the security personnel were perplexed as to the exact course of action against the truck.  In any attack, unless personnel are trained to respond to specific scenarios, they take considerable time to make sense of the event.  Was it an ordinary vehicle fire or a terrorist incident?  Does a vehicle fire generate the white fumes and bright flames the truck generated?  There should be training specific to meet the challenges of safety and security incidents.  Such model training and rehearsals will enable security personnel to anticipate the most likely modus operandi and respond effectively.

Both the security and non-security personnel had conducted exercises on emergency evaluation.  In a crisis, most staff are likely to respond the way they have been trained.  In the critical seven minutes, several hundred lives were saved because Marriott security and non-security staff collaborated to move guests away from harms way.  If not for the staff training and exercises, several hundred guests may have suffered casualties.

To integrate and synergize capabilities, government-private sector partnership is essential.  To better understand and respond to the threat environment, future hotels should build robust and lasting partnerships with government.  It is not only the private sector that must reach out to government but government intelligence and law enforcement should create specialist liaison units.  If there is a terrorist attack, it would erode investor confidence and tourism causing the entire country to suffer.[30] As such government leaders must understand the high cost of noncooperation.  The basic building blocks of establishing an effective partnership with government calls for hotels themselves to work together.  For instance, every country under threat should form a hotel security association to share the best practices.  Unfortunately, there is severe competition between the hotels.  Most hotels do not realize that if one single international hotel is attacked, it would impact on the entire hospitality industry.[31]

An Enduring Threat

With the Afghan-Pakistan border re-emerging as the global epicenter of terrorism, terrorists worldwide are likely to learn from the successes and failures of this attack.[32] As terrorists are constantly maximizing their successes and minimizing their failures, it is paramount for governments never to underestimate the terrorist threat.  For instance, on the day of the attack, Rehman Malik, the Interior Ministry chief, boasted to reporters outside parliament that terrorism had diminished by "90%" after the new government came to power.[33]

Until government forces establish territorial control of Pakistan’s frontier, the threat from Pakistani Taliban, al-Qaeda and their associated groups will persist.  As the Taliban controls parts of tribal Pakistan, the Taliban taxes businesses.[34] as well as access to explosives used to blast quarries. Merely by cordoning the Federal Capital and other urban centers, Pakistan cannot be protected from the threat emanating from it’s tribal regions.  Unless dismantled, the Taliban’s ability to mount attacks of this scale on mainland Pakistan will continue to grow. Furthermore, the Taliban has access to contractors using heavy vehicles to transport construction material from tribal Pakistan to mainland Pakistan,[35] as well as access to explosives used to blast quarries.[36] Merely by cordoning the Federal Capital and other urban centers, Pakistan cannot be protected from the threat emanating from it's tribal regions. Unless dismantled, the Taliban's ability to mount attacks of this scale on mainland Pakistan will continue to grow.


[1] Nadeeka Withana, “Deterring and Defending Against Suicide Terrorism, The Islamabad Marriott Bombing Case Study,” The International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, 2007.

[2] Interview, Major Tahir Qureshi, Chief of Security for the hotel, September 28, 2008

[3] Interview, Major Tahir Qureshi, Chief of Security for the hotel, September 28, 2008. Although chemicals were used, it was not a chemical attack.

[4]Omar Waraich, “Marriott Terror: A Challenge to Pakistan’s Leaders,” Lahore Time, September 20, 2008

[5] “Zardari says he escaped assassination at Marriott hotel,” AFP, Washington D.C. October 1, 2008

[6] The truck hits the barrier at 7.54.58 and then blows at 7.55.11 Email communication with Andy Williams, Regional Director Loss Prevention, Marriott Hotels International Ltd U.K., September 26, 2008

[7] The last will of the Saudi Al-Qaida suicide bomber responsible for the June 2008 suicide bombing attack of the Danish embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan see

[8] Interview, Alan Orlob, Vice President, Marriott International, September 27, 2008

[9] Interview, Major Tahir Qureshi, Chief of Security for the hotel, September 28, 2008

[10] Ibid

[11] Major Qureshi had 24 years of service in the Pakistani army, including 10 years in Military Intelligence and Inter-Services Intelligence. Until March 2008, the Chief of Security was Colonel Javed Ashraff Bhatt. Qureshi succeeded him.

[12] Six external CCTV cameras feeding into the security booth were lost during the explosion. There was no dedicated cable feed to the main CCTV control room in the hotel building. Crucial close up recording relating to the vehicle arrival and search was lost. Email communication with Andy Williams, Regional Director Loss Prevention, Marriott Hotels International Ltd U.K., September 26, 2008

[13] Interview, Major Tahir Qureshi, Chief of Security for the hotel, September 28, 2008 After completing the 9 am to 3 pm shift, Major Qureshi left the hotel at 6.40 pm and returned to his home 45 minutes away from the hotel. After the truck crashed but before the explosion, Major Qureshi received a phone call from the CCTV operator

[14] Interview, Andy Williams, Regional Director Loss Prevention, Marriott Hotels International Ltd U.K., September 26, 2008

[15] Interview, Major Tahir Qureshi, Chief of Security for the hotel, September 28, 2008

[16] Ibid

[17] Segments of the press said that iftar celebrations may have led to a lapse in security

[18] The hotel security has four sniffer dogs

[19] Interview, Major Tahir Qureshi, Chief of Security for the hotel, September 29, 2008

[20] Ibid



[23] Unidentified, EOD Specialist, Western security and intelligence service, September 24, 2008

[24] Ibid

[25] Interview, Alan Orlob, Vice President, Marriott International, September 27, 2008

[26] Ibid

[27] Ibid

[28] Hashwani Vows a New Marriott will Rise from Ashes, Pakistan Tribune, September 25, 2008

[29] Interview, Sara Hashwani, October 2, 2008

[30] After the Marriott attack in Islamabad, the British airways temporarily suspended its lights.

[31] “Reservations at luxury hotels drop by 50%,” Daily Times, Pakistan, September 22, 2008 After the Serena was attacked in Kabul in 2008 and the Italian restaurant in Islamabad was attacked in 2008, international NGOs, the UN, and embassies restricted their staff from frequenting hotels and restaurants.

[32] Al-Qaeda’s operations leader Khalid Sheikh Mohomed, the mastermind of 9-11, arrested not far away from the Marriott developed the “loose and learn doctrine.”

[33] Omar Waraich, “Marriott Terror: A Challenge to Pakistan’s Leaders,” Lahore Time, September 20, 2008

[34] Ali Hazrat Bacha, PESHAWAR: Swat forests at the mercy of militants Dawn, October 1, 2008

[35] PIR ZUBAIR SHAH and JANE PERLEZ, “Pakistan Marble Helps Taliban Stay in Business,” The New York Times, July 14, 2008

[36] Ibid