Saturday 24 March 2018

Suicide bombers kill 14 in Pakistan including anti-Taliban minister

Rescue workers at the site of the suicide bombings in Shadi Khan. (AP)
Rescue workers at the site of the suicide bombings in Shadi Khan. (AP)

A pair of suicide bombers have detonated their explosives at the home of an anti-Taliban provincial minister, killing him and 13 others in eastern Pakistan, officials said.

Shuja Khanzada's body was retrieved from the rubble of the collapsed building in his home town of Shadi Khan in Attock district, 50 miles north west of the capital Islamabad, government official Saeed Elahi said.

The Punjab provincial head of Pakistan's National Action Plan against terrorism, Mr Khanzada took a bold public stance against the Taliban and Islamic militancy. A former army officer, he helped establish the anti-terrorism department in Punjab province, which is home to a variety of militant groups, most of them allied to the Taliban and al Qaida.

Another 17 were wounded in the explosion and four are in critical condition, said Deeba Shahnaz, an official with the state rescue agency.

Mr Khanzada was a vocal public advocate for harsh government tactics against the militants, and endorsed the government's recent decision to bring back the death penalty for terrorism cases. Late last month he announced the killing in a police shootout of one of the most feared Islamic militants, Malik Ishaq, who was the chief of al Qaida-linked Pakistani sectarian group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi.

"We will not spare any of the 63 proscribed militant organisations," he said in a recent local TV interview.

Provincial police chief Mushtaq Sukhera said the bombing was a reaction to a year-long police crackdown against the Islamic militants.

Mr Sukhera said two suicide bombers struck simultaneously. Neither of them entered the hall where the minister was present, he said. One of the bombers detonated his device at the entrance to the hall, and the other in a back street behind the spot where the minister was sitting, the police chief said.

Pakistani TV footage showed rescue workers and cranes working at the site of the collapsed house.

Prime minister Nawaz Sharif and army chief General Raheel Sharif condemned the attack.

Jamatul Ahrar, a splinter group of the Pakistani Taliban, claimed the attack. The Pakistani Taliban is an umbrella outfit made up of several local militant groups.

Its spokesman, Ahsanullah Ahsan, said in an email that the attack was revenge for the killing of Ishaq, the militant leader.

Press Association

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