PESHAWAR: A massive truck bomb ripped through a luxury hotel Tuesday killing eleven people and wounding 46 in Pakistan's Peshawar city, capital of a northwest province plagued by Taliban violence.
The bomb was hidden in a delivery truck, police and officials said, and was driven up to the five-star Pearl Continental hotel in the high-security Khyber Road area of Peshawar and detonated outside, causing massive devastation.
It is the seventh deadly bombing to hit the troubled city in a month, as fears grow that Taliban militants are exacting revenge for a punishing six-week military offensive against them in three northwest districts.
"Eleven people have been killed," provincial police chief Malik Naveed told AFP. "The toll is likely to rise."
Hospital officials said foreign nationals were among the wounded.
"We have received 46 injured people including five foreigners," doctor Mohammad Rehan told AFP at the main government hospital in Peshawar.
Senior police official Abdul Ghafoor Afridi told AFP: "It was a bomb brought in a vehicle in the garb of hotel supplies."
It was not immediately clear if it was a suicide attack, but witnesses and a security official said they heard gunfire before the blast.
"There was a huge blast inside PC (Pearl Continental) hotel," Afridi said earlier, adding that the explosion led to fire in building.
An AFP reporter at the scene said a deep crater was visible outside the four-story hotel, with smoke billowing around the damaged building and rescue workers rushing the wounded, including foreigners, to safety.
"More than 500 kilograms of explosive material was used in the blast," senior police official Shafqat Malik told AFP.
Television footage showed ambulances and police cars streaming to the hotel, which is popular with dignitaries, officials and foreign visitors, and rescuers carrying out the injured on their backs.
Tuesday's attack on the Pearl Continental echoes a suicide truck bomb attack on the luxury Marriott Hotel in Islamabad in September 2008 that killed 60 people.
Pakistan has been hit by a string of devastating attacks in recent weeks, with markets and security targets hit in Peshawar and police buildings targeted in Islamabad and the cultural capital Lahore.
On Friday, a suicide bomb ripped through a mosque packed with worshippers, also in the northwest of the country, killing 38 people and wounding dozens more in the deadliest such attack in more than two months.
The Taliban in Pakistan have warned of more "massive attacks" in retaliation for the military operations against them in Swat, Lower Dir and Buner.
The current US-backed campaign centred on Swat was launched when Taliban fighters advanced to within 100 kilometres (60 miles) of Islamabad, flouting a deal to put three million people under sharia law in exchange for peace.
There were signs Tuesday that the offensive was expanding outside the Swat valley, with residents and local officials reporting shelling near a Pakistan tribal area where the US alleges Al-Qaeda militants are holed up.
Residents and officials in towns in Bannu district, next to the tribal areas of Waziristan, told AFP the military had begun shelling in their region and said "hundreds" of troops had arrived in some towns, claims denied by the military.
Pakistan claims to have killed more than 1,350 militants since the assault began on April 26, although the figures are impossible to verify.