Shuja Khanzada among ten others killed in Attock suicide bombing
Punjab Home Minister Col (retd) Shuja Khanzada was among ten others killed when a suicide blast went off during a meeting at his political office in Shadi Khan village near Attock on Sunday morning, reports said.
Several others died in the bomb blast. The impact of the explosion caused the roof of the building to collapse, and shattered windows in nearby houses.
Between 50-100 people were estimated to have been in attendance at the jirga being held at Khanzada’s political office (Dera). Many of them were buried underneath the wreckage as the entire structure had been razed to the ground by the explosion.
Deputy Superintendent of Police Hazro Syed Shoukat Shah was among the dead recovered from the site. Ten other policemen were present at the scene when the blast occurred.
Sources in the interior ministry claim that banned outfit Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) has taken responsibility of the suicide attack on Shuja Khanzada. They alleged Khanzada was under threat following the killing of LeJ chief Malik Ishaq in July.
Rescuers were trying to find survivors in the collapse of the roof of the building where Punjab Home Minister Col (retd) Shuja Khanzada talked with the locals, in Shadi Khan, a village about 70 kilometers northwest of the capital Islamabad.
According to officials, a suicide bomber blew himself up at ‘dera’ (local political office) of Shuja Khanzada in Shadi Khan village where he was hearing complaints of local people at a meeting.
Rescue teams and local people thronged to the blast site to retrieve the dead and injured from the building rubble, and after four hours of efforts they recovered the body of Shuja Khanzada.
“Punjab Home Minister Col (retd) Shuja Khanzada perished under the rubble,” the head of relief operations, Mohammad Ashfaq told AFP.
Another senior official, Saeed Illahi, adviser to Chief Minister Punjab confirmed the death of Col (retd) Shuja Khanzada.
Officials said the death toll could rise further as forty people were present in the building when the concrete roof collapsed under the breath of the blast.
“A team of military rescuers, with modern facilities and trained specifically for this type of situation to happen quickly on site to support rescue workers already present,” said Zahid Saeed, top official of the local district.
Police said a suicide bomber managed to sneak into the gathering and blew himself up, using 10 kg explosive material.
The dead and injured were transported to hospitals in Attock, Rawalpindi and Islamabad where emergency was declared.
Shuja Khanzada was given charge of the home department in October 2014 and had been actively involved in major operations against terror outfits. The provincial department he headed was responsible for the maintenance of law and order, and protection of life and property of citizens. He had previously held positions as Provincial Minister Punjab and Advisor to the Chief Minister Punjab.
Earlier this year, Khanzada had said the Punjab government received threat alerts for airports, prisons, schools and sensitive installations, besides targeted killing of known personalities and kidnap for ransom.
The minister had said all banned organisations had been stopped from operating, and lists of NGOs and seminaries working against “national interests”, as well as a person delivering provocative speeches, had also been prepared and action would be taken against them on “solid evidence”.
Pakistani armed forces launched an offensive in June 2014 in the northwest of the country against the Taliban fighting with the Islamabad government as well as their allies of Al Qaeda, which had reduced the number of terrorist attacks by insurgents.