The death toll in a brazen suicide attack that killed Pakistan’s Punjab province Home Minister at his ancestral home in Attock district today rose to 20.
Home Minister Shuja Khanzada, 71, and a DSP were among 20 people killed when two suicide bombers attacked his political office yesterday in his native Shadi Khan village in Attock district, some 100 kms from capital city of Islamabad. The roof of the hall where some three to four dozen people were sitting with the minister collapsed in the blast trapping them in the rubble.
“The death toll of the Attock blast has risen to 20. The rescue operation has not been completed at yet. Some 17 injured have been shifted to different hospitals for treatment,” said Deeba Shahnaz, a Punjab Emergency Department Rescue 1122 spokesperson.
She said the rescue teams are still busy removing the debris. “There may be more people buried under the rubble.” Inspector General of Punjab Police Mushtaq Sukhera said two suicide-bombers took part in the attack.
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“There were two suicide bombers – one stood outside the boundary wall and the other was already present in the hall before the arrival of the minister.
“When the minister entered the hall and started interacting with the people present there both bombers blew themselves up. The blast by the bomber standing outside caused the roof to fall flat on the minister and other people gathered there,” he said.
Lashkar-e-Jhanghvi, Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan and Jamaat-ul-Ahrar reportedly claimed the responsibility of the attack. The minister had also received threats from Al-Qaeda.
A preliminary report submitted to Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif by Sukhera said the minister was killed in retaliation of the killing of Lashkar-e-Jhanghvi chief Malik Ishaq in July 29 in Muzaffargarh district of Punjab. He said the intelligence reports had warned about attacks on senior government functionaries, including the minister.
Citing sources, Dawn said the assassination of the home minister had been carried out by the self-styled Islamic State in collaboration with the Taliban.
“We have confirmed reports about the ISIS presence in Attock,” a senior police official said.
The ISIS flags were found in sensitive area of Taxila. The limbs of the suicide bombers have been sent for forensic test.
The Counter-Terrorism Department has registered an FIR under terrorism charges against unknown persons. The Punjab government has announced a three-day mourning.