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Official: Pakistan's Leaders Were to Dine at Islamabad Marriott the Night of Bombing


Although a Pakistani official says the country's two top leaders had initially planned to dine at the capital's Marriott Hotel the night it was bombed, the hotel denies that a dinner was scheduled. The bombing killed at least 53 people. Two days later, reports say a little-known group has claimed responsibility. Leta Hong Fincher has more.

Two days after the bombing of Islamabad's Marriott Hotel, the interior ministry chief said Pakistan's president and prime minister were planning to dine at the hotel the night it was attacked.

Rehman Malik told reporters on Monday that dinner plans were changed at the last minute.

But later, officials at the Islamabad Marriott denied that the country's leaders were to dine at the hotel that night.

Media reports are saying that a little known group called Fedayeen Islam has claimed responsibility.

Malik said the attack appeared to be the work of Taliban militants linked to al-Qaida.

"Let's hope that with the international community, with the support of our Pakistani brothers and sisters, our nation, we are able to eradicate this menace from the country," Malik said.

In Washington, Deputy State Department Spokesman Robert Wood said the U.S. and Pakistan need to redouble counterterrorism efforts in the region. "This was a heinous act that was committed by terrorists who have no interest in anything other than maiming and killing innocent civilians, and we're going to step up our efforts and work with the Pakistanis to do what we can," Wood said.

Wood said Pakistan's government has so far declined outside assistance in investigating the attack.

On Monday, British Airways said it is suspending flights to Pakistan pending a security review.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said the violence in Pakistan is unacceptable. "Those violent extremists who are trying to destroy life for the purposes of getting propaganda, must be told once and for all that the whole world is united against what they're doing," Brown said.

Saturday's bomb attack killed at least 53 people and wounded nearly 270.

Meanwhile, gunmen have kidnapped Afghanistan's ambassador-designate, Abdul Khaliq Farahi, in the northwestern Pakistan city of Peshawar, Afghan officials say.

Farahi's driver was killed in the attack.

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