A suicide bomber detonated at the Marriott hotel in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad on Jan. 26, killing a security guard and injuring at least six people. The blast occurred about 2:37 p.m. local time, hours before an Indian High Commission was scheduled to hold a Republic Day function at the hotel. The luxury hotel, located near government buildings and diplomatic missions, also is popular with Western travelers. The timing of the attack seems to rule out the possibility that it was aimed at Indians, suggesting the bomber intended to kill Westerners. Regardless of the intended target, however, the bomber's sloppy attempt — coupled with the vigilance of the hotel security staff — kept the blast from killing more people. Attacks coinciding with India's Republic Day have been expected in India, prompting security and intelligence agencies there to increase vigilance and crack down on suspected militants in advance of the event. In Pakistan, however, overall security might not have been as tight. The target could have been the Indian High Commission, but the fact that the bomber struck more than four hours before the ceremony was set to begin suggests otherwise. The hotel has a basement bar that is popular with Westerners and other foreigners who routinely gather at the hotel.
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The Islamabad Marriott itself was the scene of an October 2004 bombing. More recently, in March 2006, a suicide car bomber attacked the U.S. Consulate in Karachi, Pakistan, which shares a parking lot with the Marriott there. Security at the chain's hotels in more volatile locations has been increased since the October 2002 bombing of the JW Marriott in Jakarta, Indonesia. This increased security might be the reason the bomber apparently attempted to gain access to the hotel through a side entrance instead of a more direct approach through the front lobby, which would have been better guarded, especially on a day when important visitors were expected. Despite his attempt to sidestep primary security, the bomber still failed to gain access. The bomber's true intended target is unclear, though it is obvious he was equipped with a well-made improvised explosive device, indicating he belonged to a cell that includes a competent bombmaker. He also was committed to the operation, as he continued to press home the attack even after being confronted by security — indicating he had been well-selected and prepared for his mission. If the bomber had succeeded in entering a crowded area, such as the main lobby or the basement bar where Westerners gather, the death toll could have been much higher.