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Pakistan Provincial Minister Killed In Suicide Bombing

Supporters of Malik Ishaq, chief of the Al-Qaeda-linked Laskhar-e-Jhangvi in the Punjab region, wait for the arrival of his body for burial before his funeral in Rahimyarkhan in southern Punjab Province on July 29.

A minister has been killed in Pakistan's eastren Punjab province after a suicide bomber blew himself up outside his home.

Officials say Punjab Home Minister Shuja Khanzada was killed in the blast, which collapsed the roof of the room where he was meeting with local residents.

At least 11 others, including at least one police officer, were killed in the attack and search operations are still under way. About 25 people have been pulled alive from the rubble.

The blast occurred in the town of Shadi Khan, about 80 kilometers northwest of the Pakistani capital, Islamabad.

Khanzada is the most prominent official killed by insurgents since the Pakistani government launched an operation to secure the country's lawless tribal region along the Afghan border about a year ago.

He was a retired intelligence officer and was a leader in the campaign against Islamist extremists in Punjab, which is the home region of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. He helped create the region's antiterrorism department and often spoke out publicly against the Taliban and Islamist extremism.

The Taliban-affiliated extremist group Lashkar-e-Islam has claimed responsibility for the attack and has vowed to carry out similar bombings in the future.

Officials, however, note that Lashkar-e-Islam has not carried out such high-level attacks in the past and may be just exploiting an attack carried out by the Taliban or the banned Sunni militant group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi.

Khanzada's killing comes a week after security forces killed Malik Ishaq, who was chief of the Al-Qaeda-linked Laskhar-e-Jhangvi in the Punjab region.

Officials have warned of possible retaliatory attacks since Ishaq's July 29 killing.

About 3,000 people have been killed since the military launched its bid to secure the tribal areas.

With reporting by AP, Reuters. and dpa

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