Islamabad (IANS): At least 15 people, including home minister of Pakistan’s eastern Punjab province, were killed and 23 others injured in a suicide attack that destroyed a political camp in Attock district on Sunday, officials said.
Spokesperson of the rescue department Deeba Shehnaz said 15 bodies were shifted to hospital while two of the injured were in critical condition and were undergoing treatment in the intensive care unit, Pakistani media reported.
A suicide bomber detonated his explosives-laden vest when Home Minister Shuja Khanzada was hearing complaints from residents in his native village Shadi Khan, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said.
“There were two suicide bombers, one stood outside the boundary wall and the second one went inside and stood in front of the minister,” Punjab Inspector General Mushtaq Sukhera told reporters.
“The blast by the bomber standing outside ripped the wall which caused the roof to collapse on the minister and the people gathered there,” he said.
The roof of the camp collapsed and the whole building was levelled to the ground due to the impact of the explosion.
Police, security forces and rescue teams rushed to the site and took out the bodies and injured from the debris.
Deputy Superintendent of Police Shaukat Shah, who was present at the camp to look after the security of the minister, was also killed in the attack.
According to police officials, at least 100 people were present at Khanzada’s office and many of them were buried underneath the rubble.
The minister had reportedly received threat calls from terror organisations since the launch of the targeted operation against the terrorists in the province over the past eight months.
A retired army officer-turned-politician, Khanzada was given charge of the province’s home department in October last year and had successfully set up an anti-terrorism squad that was conducting major operations against terror outfits in the province — Pakistan’s most populous.
According to interior ministry sources, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Taliban splinter group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) claimed responsibility for the audacious suicide attack.
The group’s spokesperson was quoted as saying that the attack on Khanzada was to avenge the killing of their chief Malik Ishaq in a police encounter on July 29.
Ishaq, along with his two sons and 11 others, was killed in a police operation in Punjab’s Muzaffargarh district.
President Mamnoon Hussain, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Army Chief Gen Raheel Sharif, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chairman Imran Khan and Director General of Inter-Services Public Relations Asim Bajwa condemned the blast and expressed condolences and sympathies with the families of the deceased persons.