Expats in Pak ask if it’s time to say goodbye
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When the place you go to eat, meet, do business, attend conferences and receptions gets blown up, it's natural to ask whether it's time to leave.
The sheer sound of the massive explosion from a suicide truck bomb at the Marriott hotel left foreigners living in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad shaken to their core — and for some of them, it could be a tipping point.
Two Americans, one Vietnamese and the Czech ambassador were among the dead.
Ina Pietchmann, a German woman working for the United Nations, said her heart beat like a rabbit's when she heard the blast and saw the night sky go red and smoke rise up.
"Our lives have got steadily worse over the past two months. We're advised not to go to outside restaurants," she said.
Two months ago there was a security scare after Pakistani police seized two four-wheel-drive vehicles stacked with explosives in the nearby city of Rawalpindi and hunted for another they feared was being sneaked into the capital. "There's always some stress lying on you," she said.
Nuthit Phukkanasut, general manager of the Thai Airways office in Islamabad, said he was restricting his movements.
"I don't go to places where many people go. I only go out to my friends' houses. I don't go to the main shopping areas, the high-risk places."
Many foreigners left Islamabad after the September 11 attacks on the United States in 2001 but later returned as investment poured into the oil, gas and telecoms sectors. It remained a non-family posting for US diplomats, however.
Aside from the Marriott, the Serena, Islamabad's only other five-star hotel, and the social clubs attached to embassies in the highly protected diplomatic enclave were among the few places deemed safe by security advisers.
Six months ago, a bomb attack in the garden area of an Italian restaurant that was another favorite haunt among expatriates unnerved some, until it was learnt that the target had probably been a table full of agents from the US Federal Bureau of Investigation.
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