WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President George W. Bush condemned a suicide truck-bombing in Islamabad on Saturday that killed at least 40 people, including one American, and said the United States would back the government of Pakistan.
The bombing at the Marriott Hotel in the Pakistani capital wounded nearly 250 and came hours after new President Asif Ali Zardari, widower of assassinated former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, made his first address to parliament nearby and called for terrorism to be rooted out.
“I strongly condemn the terrorist bombing in Islamabad that targeted and killed many innocents, including at least one American,” Bush said in a statement. “I extend condolences to the families of all those killed in this brutal attack.”
The United States considers Pakistan an ally in fighting terrorism and has been pressing Islamabad to go after Taliban and al Qaeda fighters suspected of hiding in the region near the border with Afghanistan.
“This attack is a reminder of the ongoing threat faced by Pakistan, the United States, and all those who stand against violent extremism,” Bush said.
The bombing was the third targeting the U.S. chain hotel in Islamabad and comes amid stepped up U.S. strikes against al Qaeda and Taliban militants believed to be hiding in Pakistan.
“We will assist Pakistan in confronting this threat and bringing the perpetrators to justice,” Bush said. “We will fully support the democratically-elected government of Pakistan and the Pakistani people as they face enormous challenges economically as well as from terrorism.”
Bush is due to meet with Zardari in New York on Tuesday before the United Nations General Assembly.
Sen. Barack Obama, the Democrat running for U.S. president, said the attack demonstrated “the grave and urgent threat” al Qaeda poses to the security of all nations.
“Now is the time to refocus our efforts on defeating al Qaeda and securing the American people,” he said.
The United States must “forge a deep and lasting partnership with Pakistan” and other countries to root out and destroy al Qaeda and its affiliates, Obama said.
Reporting by Tabassum Zakaria and Jeremy Pelofsky; Editing by Patricia Zengerle