Governments around the world have condemned the suicide bombing of a hotel in Islamabad, Pakistan's capital, that has killed at least 53 people and left hundreds injured.
|US intelligence has said the attack carries
the hallmarks of al-Qaeda [EPA]
There has been no confirmed claim of responsibility, but US intelligence said that the blast, which ruptured a gas pipeline and triggered a blaze that engulfed the hotel, bore the "hallmarks" of an al-Qaeda attack.
George Bush, the US president who has targeted al-Qaeda in his so-called "war on terror", described the attack as "part of a continuing assault on the people of Pakistan".
"I strongly condemn the terrorist bombing in Islamabad that targeted and killed many innocents, including at least one American," he said.
'Outrageous act of violence'
On the US campaign trail, Barack Obama, the Democratic White House hopeful, said the "attack demonstrates the grave and urgent threat that al-Qaeda and its affiliates pose to the United States, to Pakistan, and to the security of all nations".
"As the attack earlier this week on our embassy in Yemen shows, over seven years after 9/11, the terrorist threat knows no borders, and the terrorists threaten innocent civilians of all religions and regions.
"Now is the time to refocus our efforts on defeating al-Qaeda and securing the American people."
John McCain, his Republican rival, called the attack "an outrageous act of violence".
"Today's bombing must serve to deepen the resolve of Americans and Pakistanis alike to aggressively confront those terrorist groups that seek our destruction," McCain said.
"It also serves as one more demonstration of the need for the next president to work closely with our partners and allies in order to counter the dangers posed by radical Islamic extremism."
'Act of terrorism'
Pakistan's neighbour, India. expressed "shock and sorrow" over the attack, saying the bombing demonstrated the "destructive forces" of terrorism.
"We strongly condemn this act of terrorism," Manmohan Singh, the indian prime minister, said
"Such attacks are a grim reminder of the challenges we face from destructive forces which have pitted themselves against the values of democracy and pluralism and the voices of moderation. We must not allow such forces to succeed."
Britain also condemned the attack, with David Miliband, the foreign secretary, saying the UK stood "shoulder-to-shoulder with the government of Pakistan against the violent extremists who have no answers but only offer death and mayhem".
'Heinous terrorist attack'
The European Union expressed its support for Pakistan.
"At this difficult time, the presidency of the council of the European Union addresses a message of solidarity to the Pakistani authorities, and stands more than ever with them in their fight against terrorism," the EU presidency, currently held by France, said in a statement from Brussels.
|Marriott hotel employees were injured
in the blast [EPA]
In Moscow, Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian president, offered to boost Russian co-operation with Pakistan in battling outlawed armed groups.
"Decisively condemning this inhuman act, we express our sincere solidarity and support to the people and leadership of Pakistan," Medvedev said in a telegram to Asif Ali Zardari, Pakistan's president.
"We confirm our readiness to deepen cooperation with Pakistan, both on a bilateral level and within the framework of the war on terror."
'Cannot be tolerated'
At the UN, Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, condemned the "heinous terrorist attack on the Marriott hotel in Islamabad," his spokesperson said in a statement.
"He expresses his heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims of this appalling attack, as well as to the government and people of Pakistan. No cause can justify the indiscriminate targeting of civilians."
In Asia, China also pledged "unremitting" support for Pakistan.
"China opposes terrorism of any kind," said Yang Jiechi, China's foreign minister in a message to his Pakistani counterpart.
"As the friendly neighbour and all-weather friend of Pakistan, China will continue to support the unremitting efforts of Pakistan's government and people to maintain stability," said the message, quoted on the foreign ministry website.
South Korea condemned the bombing, saying in a statement that the attack was "an act against humanity that cannot be tolerated under any cause".
The ministry expressed condolences to the families of those killed and to the government of Pakistan.
The Australian government also condemned the attack.
"This vicious attack on innocent people is another reminder of the grave terrorist threat which is threatening democracy and security in Pakistan. This threat cannot be allowed to succeed," Stephen Smith, Australia's foreign minister, said in a statement.