BHAKKAR - A suicide bomber killed 26 people and over 70 others were injured, many of them critically, on Monday in the latest attack to underscore the threat posed by Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants.
The attacker blew himself up in a crowd of people at the house of Rashid Akbar Khan Nawani, an MNA from Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, in the town of Bhakkar, police and hospital officials said.
It was a suicide attack, the head of the bomber has been recovered. The Interior Ministry has confirmed the deaths of 20 people but put the number of injured at 35.
The MNA was among the injured. Some of the wounded are in serious condition, DSP Bhakkar Khadim Hussain said. He said people were exchanging Eid greetings with the MNA at the time of the blast.
"It will be premature to say who is responsible for the attack," the DSP said adding, evidence is being collected from the blast site which was cordoned off by the police. The head of the suicide bomber has been found. A suicide jacket was also found from the site of the blast while an Afghan currency note was found on the suicide attacker. Saeed Akbar Nawani, brother of MNA Rasheed Akbar Nawani has confirmed that the latter remained safe and only received minor bruises.
As per details, MNA Rasheed Akbar Nawani was exchanging Eid greetings with the people who gathered at his 'Dera' when a man with curly hair entered the place and tried to get close to the MNA but failed, as the place was jampacked with people. He then detonated the explosives strapped on him which ripped his body into pieces and killed 26 others and injured 70. The injured were brought to District Headquarter Hospital Bhakkar.
Chief Minister Punjab, Shahbaz Sharif has issued directives to the concerned authorities to immediately carry out investigation into the incident besides providing relief to the injured.
Enraged people blocked the DI Khan Road after the suicide attack. No one has so far claimed responsibility of the attack, DSP Bhakkar Khadim Hussain said.
Agencies add: "The bomber walked up to the MP's house and detonated himself in the midst of a crowd of party workers, supporters and relatives," senior police officer Khadim Hussain told AFP.
Doctor Chaudhry Ahsanul Haq said, "Nawani appears out of danger." "It is a crisis situation here."
The politician's brother, Saeed Akbar, confirmed that his injuries were not life threatening.
"His condition is not serious, he is alright," Akbar told AFP.
Nawani belongs to Shia community. He has spoken out in parliament several times recently against growing sectarian violence between Sunni and Shia communities.
"It could be a sectarian-related attack as he belongs to the Shia community," Khan Baig, a senior police officer in the region said.
Meanwhile, President Asif Ali Zardari on Monday strongly condemned the suicide bomb blast at the residence of Member National Assembly Rasheed Akbar Khan Nawani in Bhakkar, injuring the MNA and killing many others.
President Zardari in a message expressed deep grief over the loss of precious lives and condoled with the families of victims. He prayed to Allah Almighty to rest the departed souls in peace and grant recovery to the injured ones.
He said such heinous incidents could not deter the government's resolve to fight against terrorism. Zardari said present government is committed to wipe out the scourge of terrorism, and targeting the people of Pakistan indiscriminately.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani also denounced the suicide blast and expressed deep sorrow over the loss of lives and condoled with victims' families.
Prime Minister Gilani has announced Rs 300,000 each as compensation for the families of those who lost their lives in the Bhakkar suicide blast.
He also announced Rs 100,000 each for those injured in the incident. He has also ordered the Punjab government to initiate an immediate inquiry into the tragic incident.