Punjab’s home minister Shuja Khanzada has been killed in a suicide attack in the Pakistani province.
Twelve other people died in the attack yesterday at Mr Khanzada’s office in Attock, about 50 miles north-west of the capital, Islamabad.
Such dastardly attempts can’t dent our national resolvePakistan military spokesman
Mr Khanzada was seen as the man in charge of the anti-terror campaign in Pakistan’s biggest province.
A Sunni militant group with ties to al-Qaeda has said it ordered the attack.
The group, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, said the attack on Mr Khanzada’s office was carried out in response to last month’s killing of its leader, Malik Ishaq.
Shuja Khanzada is the most senior Pakistani politician to have been killed by militants this year.
The minister’s death is being seen as a significant blow to Pakistan’s recent gains in the fight against militancy and extremism. Local news media pointed out that security was lax at the premises.
Although there had been reports of death threats to the minister, no security checks were performed on visitors.
The gate of Mr Khanzada’s office was always open to the public.
Mr Khanzada was meeting supporters in his hometown of Attock when a large bomb exploded, causing the roof of the building to cave in, trapping dozens under the rubble.
Leading tributes to the home minister, prime minister Nawaz Sharif said: “The courage and valour of Shuja Khanzada is a message to the masterminds of terrorists that they are bound to be defeated.”
Lashkar-e-Jhangvi has been behind some of the most violent attacks in the region in recent years.
The group was banned in Pakistan in 2001 and designated a terrorist group by the US in 2003. It has claimed the killings of hundreds of mainly Shia civilians in Pakistan.
Images on private television news networks showed rescue workers and army troops scouring the rubble for survivors and pulling out the dead.
The wounded were ferried to nearby hospitals in Attock and Kamra. Speaking in Lahore, the provincial capital, Mushtaq Sukhera, the inspector general of the Punjab police, said that body parts of the suicide bomber had been recovered from the site.
Mr Sharif and the army chief, General Raheel Sharif, strongly condemned the attack and vowed to continue Pakistan’s fight against militancy and extremism.
“Such dastardly, cowardly attempts can’t dent our national resolve to eliminate the menace,” a military spokesman said, quoting the army chief.
“Mr Khanzada was a bold officer whose sacrifice for the greater cause of cleansing Pakistan won’t go to waste.”