Punjab home minister Colonel (retd) Shuja Khanzada was killed in a suicide attack Sunday on his political office in Shadi Khan village near Attock, Dawn said. His death was confirmed by Dr Syed Elahi, advisor to the chief minister of Punjab.

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

Shuja Khanzada had recently been active in a crackdown on sectarian and Taliban fighters in the Punjab province

Eighteen others were also killed when a suicide attacker detonated a powerful bomb while a jirga (open court) was under way at the office, said Inspector General Punjab Mushtaq Sukhera.

Several people were still trapped under the debris with rescue workers busy trying to rescue them.

Sukhera said two suicide bombers carried out the attack.

DSP Hazro Shaukat Shah was among the dead. Ten policemen are trapped under the rubble.

At least 17 people were injured in the attack and are currently under treatment at different hospitals in Rawalpindi and Islamabad.

Sukhera prayed for the early recovery of the injured victims.

The impact of the explosion caused the roof of the building to collapse, and shattered windows in nearby houses.

Khanzada’s nephew Sohrab Khanzada said he was in the kitchen when the blast rocked the building with such intensity that it caused the entire building to collapse.

Rescue work under way as a man walks away from the site of the explosion Sunday

Sources in the interior ministry said the banned outfit Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) has claimed responsibility for the suicide attack. They said Khanzada has been under threat following the killing of LeJ chief Malik Ishaq in July.

Pakistan Army’s special urban search and rescue teams have reached the blast site. Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has also arrived at the site.

Khanzada was given charge of the home department in Oct 2014. The provincial department is responsible for the maintenance of law and order, and protection of life and property of citizens.

He previously held positions as Provincial Minister Punjab and Advisor to the Chief Minister Punjab.

Rescue operations are under way at the scene of the attack. A helicopter has been called in to speed up rescue efforts.

Condemning Sunday’s attack, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said sacrifices of valiant heroes like Shuja Khanzada would destroy terrorist designs and they would be chased to their last hideout and eliminated with national resolve and unity.

He asked law enforcement agencies not to lower their guards till the last terrorist is eliminated.

PTI chairman Imran Khan tweeted: “Grieved to learn of Shuja Khanzada’s martyrdom. He was one of the founding mbrs of PTI & travelled with me in the early days galvanising ppl.”

Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah described the attack as an act of cowardice.

Pakistan People’s Party chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari condemned the attack and stressed forging unity in the national ranks to eliminate the scourge of terrorism. 

In a statement released by PPP’s media cell, Bilawal said, “Such cowardly attacks cannot lower the morale of the nation which has risen up against bloodshed and terrorism.”

40 militants killed in airstrikes

Hours after Punjab Home Minister Shuja Khanzada was killed by a suicide bomber in his political office in Attock, Pakistan Army aircraft pounded hideouts in Shawal area of North Waziristan, killing 40 militants, Express Tribune said.

“Forty terrorists were killed in bombardment by fighter jets in Shawal area of North Waziristan on Sunday afternoon,” Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) said.

According to ISPR, several militants were also injured in the aerial operation.

The air strikes took place after Army chief General Raheel Sharif, condemning the terrorist act in Attock in the strongest terms, directed intelligence agencies to help find its perpetrators.

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