At least 14 people, including an anti-Taliban provincial minister, have been killed in a suicide attack in Pakistan’s Punjab province, a top official in the province has said.
Saeed Elahi, adviser to Punjab’s chief minister, said the suicide bomber struck on Sunday at the residence of provincial home minister Shuja Khanzada, whose body could be seen in the rubble of the collapsed building in his hometown of Shadi Khan.
At least 23 others were wounded, four of them in critical condition, in the attack that took place in Attock district, some 80km northwest of the capital, Islamabad.
Laskhar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), a banned group, claimed responsibility for the attack and said it was in retaliation for the death of Malik Ishaq, LeJ’s chief, who was killed in a police encounter along with his two sons and 11 of his strong supporters last month.
LeJ has a reputation of being one of Pakistan’s most ruthless armed groups, carrying out mutiple attacks against Shias.
It has long been seen to be a close ally to al-Qaeda, and has recently been accused of developing links with ISIL.
Zahid Saeed, the commissioner of Rawalpindi city, stated that there were up to 40 people in the compound when a suicide bomber detonated an explosive device, causing the entire roof slab to fall in one piece. That was complicating rescue efforts.
“A team of army rescuers equipped with modern tools and trained for such incidents is reaching the site shortly,” he said.
He added that an interior ministry helicopter has reached the site to move the wounded to hospital and another helicopter with a civilian rescue team was on its way.
A police spokeswoman said two police officers were among the 11 killed in the attack.
In the past year Pakistani authorities have cracked down hard on the myriad of armed groups that have circulated through the country for the past decade.
The offensive escalated in December, after Pakistani Taliban fighters slaughtered 141 people, including 132 children in an attack on a military-run school in Peshawar in the South Asian nation’s northwest.