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Three people linked to a Pakistani Islamist group with ties to al Qaeda were arrested in Gujranwala, a city in central Punjab province, after electronic surveillance led security authorities to them hours after the Marriott blast, Reuters reported from Pakistan, quoting an intelligence officer.

The six-story hotel was a frequent meeting place in the city and was a part-time residence for some U.S. Embassy personnel. Two Marine security guards were killed in the blast.

The military officer said the hotel’s security was inadequate because the distance from the highway was insufficient. “That’s not enough to prevent a Khobar Towers or Oklahoma City bombing,” the officer said. “That should have been a no-go for any regular hanging out with groups of Americans in a country like Pakistan or even staying overnight.”

The blast crater was 20 feet by 30 feet, indicating that the amount of explosives used in the truck bomb probably was more than the initial estimate of 1,000 pounds of explosives, the officer said. “Very poor anti-terrorism/force protection consideration,” he said.

China space threat

China is developing space weapons that could be used against the U.S. military in a future conflict, according to a specialist on the issue.

“China could pose a major threat to United States satellites if they decide to deploy the [anti-satellite weapons] which they tested early last year, although coordinating such an attack would not be easy,” said Bruce W. MacDonald, senior director of the Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States.

“China’s got other offensive counterspace programs under way in various stages of development - lasers, microwaves, cyber and so forth,” Mr. MacDonald told a meeting of the Council on Foreign Relations on Sept. 18, coinciding with the release of a council report on the subject.

China in January 2007 conducted a test of an anti-satellite missile that shot down a Chinese weather satellite. In February, the Pentagon used a modified missile-defense interceptor to shoot down a U.S. satellite that was in danger of falling to earth with toxic fuel.

“Both countries have strong military incentives to deploy offensive counterspace capability,” Mr. MacDonald said, noting that space is no longer a sanctuary from military conflict.

The U.S. military is highly dependent on space for its conventional military superiority. “This is a dependence that’s ripe for the PLA, the People’s Liberation Army, of China to exploit,” Mr. MacDonald said. “And the PLA certainly knows it, especially in a Taiwan context where if such forces were to be used that it might well be in that context.”

If China could knock out key U.S. satellites, “we would suffer a huge potential degradation in our conventional force capability,” he said.

China’s military, through writings, has made clear that “the PLA envisions conflict or the possibility of conflict in space, and they’re preparing for it,” Mr. MacDonald said.

Mr. MacDonald said he favors deterring China’s use of space weapons through ground-based jammers that produce reversible damage. “I believe it’s in the interest of both the U.S. and China not to conduct broad-scale counterspace warfare, even in conflict,” he said.

• Bill Gertz covers national security affairs. He can be reached at 202/636-3274, or e-mail.