LAHORE: A minister in Pakistan's Punjab province known for his tough anti Taliban stance was today assassinated by two suicide bombers who blew themselves up at his ancestral home, killing at least 15 people in the brazen attack.
Shuja Khanzada, 71, the Home Minister of Punjab Province, and a DSP were among the 15 people killed when the suicide bombers attacked his political office in his native Shadi Khan village in Attock district, rescue and administration officials said.
At least 17 people were also injured in the blast. The condition of three injured persons is stated to be critical. The suicide bombers entered the building disguised as visitors and blew themselves up. As a result of the blast, roof of the house caved in burying the minister and about thirty other people.
Inspector General (IG) Punjab Police Mushtaq Sukhera said two suicide attackers carried out the attack. Saeed Elahi, advisor to Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, confirmed the death of Khanzada. "Punjab Home Minister has died in the suicide bombing," Elahi said. Khanzada's body has been shifted to District Headquarters Hospital Attock. "Some 40 to 50 people were present at the dera (out house) of Col Shuja when a suicide bomber managed to enter the house," Commissioner Rawalpindi Zahid Saeed said.
Khanzada, a retired colonel, was holding a jirga (reconciliatory meeting with his area people) at his house, some 100 km from capital city of Islamabad, when the attack took place. Saeed said Deputy Superintendent of Police Shaukat Shah was also among those who died in the blast.
The army said that special search and rescue team equipped with high-tech machinery to retrieve the people trapped under the rubble of the roof which collapsed due to the bombing. The banned outfit Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) has claimed responsibility for the suicide attack on Khanzada, sources in the interior ministry were quoted as saying by Dawn News. Police said Khanzada was under threat following the killing of LeJ chief Malik Ishaq in July.
The intelligence reports say that there are at least 150 sleeper cells of LeJ in south Punjab. Khanzada had also received threats from Al-Qaeda and Tahreek-i-Taliban Pakistan. "The hall of the building where the meeting was underway collapsed in the blast and over three-dozen people including the minister were trapped in the rubble," Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah told reporters.
Police sources told PTI that adequate security was not provided to the minister at his Attock residence. "The home minister's security was not at optimum level at his ancestral place," the sources said.