Islamabad, Sept 22 : Both former and current Pakistani security officials have indicated that Saturday's hotel blast in Islamabad was a joint handiwork of Al Qaeda and Taliban. They said that Waziristan was fast developing into a terror zone where tribals were giving refuge to terrorists, including Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden and his deputy Az-Zawahiri.
Mahmood Shah, a former government security chief for Pakistan's tribal areas, said that while Al Qaeda was providing "money, motivation, direction and all sort of leadership" to the terrorists, it was using the Taliban as "gun fodder". While the attack had "all the signatures" of an Al Qaeda strike, homegrown Taliban militants probably had learned how to execute an attack of such magnitude, foxnews.com quoted him as saying.
Indicating that the blast was linked to Waziristan, Interior Ministry chief Rehman Malik said "all roads lead to FATA" in major Pakistani suicide attacks, referring to Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), where US officials worry that Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda No. 2 Ayman al-Zawahri are hiding.
On the condition of anonymity, a Pakistani intelligence official also said, "investigators were examining just that theory".
According to the report, officials and experts also said that the Taliban militants based near the Afghan border and their Al Qaeda allies were the most likely suspects behind the massive bombing at Islamabad's Marriott Hotel.
The attack on the American hotel chain during Ramadan, among the deadliest terrorist strikes in Pakistan, will test the resolve of its pro-Western civilian rulers to crack down on growing violent extremism which many here blame on the country's role in the U.S.-led war on terror, added the report.
Analysts said they suspect the attack was a warning from Islamic extremists to the new civilian leadership of Pakistan that it should end already-strained cooperation with the United States to pursue Al Qaeda and Taliban militants entrenched in the lawless tribal region along the border with Afghanistan.
Terrorism researcher Evan Kohlmann said the attack was almost certainly either Al Qaeda or Pakistani Taliban.
"We are looking at either Al Qaeda or Tehrik-e-Taliban (Pakistan)," he said. "It seems that someone has a firm belief that hotels like the Marriott are serving as 'barracks' for western diplomats and intel personnel, and they are gunning pretty hard for them."
According to the U.S.-based IntelCenter, an Al Qaeda video released to mark the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in the United States threatened attacks against Western interests in Pakistan. The threat was made by senior Al Qaeda leader Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, who claimed responsibility for the summer bombing of the Danish Embassy in Islamabad.