Punjab Home Minister Shuja Khanzada killed in suicide attack

Punjab Home Minister Shuja Khanzada killed in suicide attack

A suicide bomber on Sunday killed a Pakistani provincial minister and at least nine other people at a building where the minister was holding a meeting, officials said.

“Punjab Home Minister Shuja Khanzada has embraced martyrdom,” chief rescue official Mohammad Ashfaq told AFP.

Saeed Illahi, adviser to the province’s chief minister, confirmed Khanzada’s death.

He had been trapped with several others under the rubble after the blast brought down the roof of the building in the village of Shadi Khan in Attock district.

Nobody immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, but Khanzada had been active in crackdowns on sectarian militants and Taliban insurgents in Punjab.

Saeed said there were up to 40 people in the compound when a suicide bomber blew himself up, causing the entire roof slab to fall in one piece, complicating rescue efforts.

An interior ministry helicopter had reached the site to take the wounded to hospital while another helicopter with a civilian rescue team was on its way, Saeed added.

A specially-trained team of army rescuers with modern equipment was working with civilian rescuers and trying to lift and cut sections of the fallen roof to reach the victims, AFP was told.

A police spokeswoman said two police officers were among the eight killed in the attack 70 kilometres (43 miles) northwest of Islamabad.

In the past year Pakistani authorities have cracked down hard on the myriad insurgent groups that have plagued the country for a decade.

The offensive intensified after Taliban gunmen slaughtered more than 130 children at a school in the northwest of the country in December.

Last month the leader of an anti-Shiite group behind some of Pakistan’s worst sectarian atrocities was killed in a shootout with police, along with 13 other militants.

Malik Ishaq was shot dead along with fellow Laskhar-e-Jhangvi militants, including senior commanders, in Punjab.

LeJ, long seen as close to Al-Qaeda and more recently accused of developing links with the Islamic State group, has a reputation as one of Pakistan’s most ruthless militant groups.