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Pakistani Taliban suspected in Marriott Hotel blast

Saturday's massive truck bombing, which killed at least 50 people, is seen as a warning to the Pakistani government over its cooperation with the US.

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Hours before Saturday's attack on the Marriott, Pakistan's newly elected president, Asif Ali Zardari, made his first speech to parliament since he succeeded Pervez Musharraf, in which he described terrorism as "a cancer" that Pakistan was determined to fight.

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In a clear allusion to the US raids, Mr. Zardari, who is scheduled to meet President Bush next week, also pledged to resist violations of the country's sovereignty.

"We will not tolerate the violation of our sovereignty and territorial integrity by any power in the name of combating terrorism," he said, as legislators thumped their desks and cheered in support.

Saturday's blasts have underscored the extent to which Pakistan's government is torn between cracking down on militancy and placating angry Pakistanis who do not want to be dictated to by the US.

The recent US raids will have increased militants' desire to bomb targets like the Marriott, says Mahmood Shah, a former secretary of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, where Pakistan's insurgency is centered. "The only way to curb these attacks is to strengthen the Pakistani government, strengthen the Army," he says.

Though the Marriott in Islamabad has been bombed twice before, Saturday's attack was the worse of its kind the city has ever seen. The last major attack to hit Pakistan's capital occurred on June 2, when a car bomb exploded outside Denmark's embassy, killing at least nine people. Now, Pakistanis worry more is to come.

"The terrible thing is that the structure for dealing with such attacks is very poor," says Ms. Siddiqa, the security analyst, pointing out that in television footage of the Marriott in the hours after the blast, there was little sign of an efficient emergency fire service.

"I drove with my husband to the airport that evening, expecting to have to go through heavy security – and all the check posts had been abandoned," she adds, "The police are demoralized and there's a general weakening of law and order."

Others speculated, however, that the attack on the Marriott may do little to engender sympathy with Al Qaeda or Taliban aims.

Many of those killed and injured Saturday are likely to have been Pakistanis who had gathered at the hotel for the communal iftar meal – the breaking of the holy Ramadan fast.