Pak­istan pro­vin­cial min­is­ter among 11 killed in sui­cide at­tack: of­fi­cials

The China Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY FA­ROOQ NAEEM

A sui­cide at­tacker on Sun­day killed a Pak­istani pro­vin­cial min­is­ter who had cam­paigned against mil­i­tants and at least 10 other peo­ple, af­ter det­o­nat­ing a bomb at a meet­ing the min­is­ter was at­tend­ing.

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

Khan­zada, 71, had been hold­ing a meet­ing with lo­cal peo­ple. He was 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.

“The death toll has risen to 11, in­clud­ing the min­is­ter and two po­lice of­fi­cials,” Mush­taq Sukhera, pro­vin­cial po­lice chief, told AFP.

Twenty-two peo­ple had been taken to hos­pi­tal, he said, adding that the body of the sui­cide bomber was also found.

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

Khan­zada, a re­tired army colonel, had been a mem­ber of the Punjab assem­bly since 2002 and an ac­tive mem­ber of the Pak­istan Mus­lim League (Nawaz), the party of Prime Min­is­ter Nawaz Sharif.

The prime min­is­ter, along with Pres­i­dent Mam­noon Hus­sain and army chief Gen. Ra­heel Sharif con­demned the at­tack and ex­pressed their re­solve to fight ter­ror­ism.

“Such das­tardly cow­ard at­tempts can’t dent our na­tional re­solve to elim­i­nate the men­ace,” said army spokesman Maj. Gen. Asim Ba­jwa in a state­ment.

“Khan­zada Sha­heed (mar­tyr) was a bold of­fi­cer whose sac­ri­fice for the greater cause of cleans­ing Pak­istan won’t go to waste.”

Punjab’s gov­ern­ment an­nounced a three-day mourn­ing pe­riod in the province start­ing Mon­day.

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

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

A po­lice spokes­woman said two po­lice of­fi­cers were also among the dead in the at­tack, 70 kilo­me­ters (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- eJhangvi (LeJ) mil­i­tants, in­clud­ing se­nior com­man­ders, in Punjab.

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

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