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Light Security Contributes to Pakistan Hotel Bombing

Investigators are sifting through the rubble of the Pearl Continental Hotel in northwest Pakistan, searching for clues to Tuesday night's devastating truck bombing that killed at least 9 people and injured 70 others. Closed-circuit footage aired on Pakistani television stations shows how easy it was for the attackers to hit the five-star star hotel in Peshawar.

Just moments before the explosion, security cameras caught a white car driving up to a security gate, 150- to 200-meters ahead of the entrance to the hotel. Gunfire erupted from the car and, seconds later, a huge truck barrels right through the checkpoint and explodes in the parking lot of the hotel.

The blast was deadly and destructive; dozens of cars were demolished; a section of the hotel was reduced to rubble; and a huge crater was left in the parking lot. Scores of people were injured and the death toll is expected to rise, as bodies are discovered in the rubble.

Police spent the night picking through the destroyed building, the city's only luxury hotel catering to foreigners and wealthy Pakistanis. Peshawar, capital of North West Frontier Province, has suffered a spate of attacks on soft targets, especially since early May, when the army officially began its offensive to drive Taliban militants out of nearby Swat Valley.

Security analysts Hassan Askari says it is clear that hotel management did not take security threats in the city seriously enough. He describes the security at Pearl Continental "extremely poor", in comparison to other upscale hotels in Pakistan.

"It was amazing that these two vehicles could go in just straight on. I think it could be over-confidence and not spending money," he said. "It's sometimes denial that it [an attack] will not happen and sometimes it's a question of money. Because if you want to have secure security, obviously you end up spending more money and sometimes people are miserly with that. "

Western security experts had recently warned management at the Pearl Hotel that its security was not sufficient and that it could easily be targeted.

The style of the attack - shooting through a barricade, then detonating explosives - has become a recent signature of terrorists in Pakistan. That same tactic was used in last month's attack on a police building in Lahore, which killed at least 24 people.

Askari says there are several steps that can be taken to deal with the escalating threat of terrorist attacks.

"I think the first thing that needs to be strengthened is intelligence services," said Askari. "They need to monitor these groups, try to penetrate these groups, because the best solution is that terrorists should be pre-empted from doing what they do. Second is that the government must use its resources to make people conscious that life cannot go on the way it used to be a couple of years ago. Pakistan has internally changed and the real struggle for Pakistan's survival is now internal. And, internal wars are are always problematic and difficult."

No one has claimed responsibility for the Peshawar attack. The city remains on high alert, but Pakistani officials are warning the public to expect more attacks in the future, even as they vow to defeat those behind them.