ISLAMABAD/WASHINGTON - The home minister for Pakistan's populous Punjab province, and 14 other people were killed in a suicide bombing Sunday.
Shuja Khanzada was killed Sunday at his residence in the Attock district, about 100 kilometers (60 miles) northwest of the capital, Islamabad.
Witnesses said as many as 30 people were inside the home with Khanzada, who was listening to complaints of villagers, when the suicide bomber entered and detonated explosives, despite an attempt by security guards to stop him.
Others buried in rubble
Dozens of people, including police officers, were buried under the rubble after the massive blast caused the building's collapse.
Rescue workers said the death toll is likely to rise.
Provincial adviser Saeed Elahi said civilian and military rescue teams quickly reached the site to retrieve bodies and assist the wounded.
“But as you know it is a congested, small town, the narrow streets and the blocked roads, so that was the problem reaching there," Elahi said.
Deeba Shahnaz, spokeswoman for the local rescue department, said Khanzada's body had been recovered and "the search operation still continues."
Authorities said Khanzada had been receiving threats from the Sunni militant group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), known for deadly attacks on minority Shi'ite Muslims in Pakistan.
LeJ head killed
Late last month, the counterterrorism police in Punjab killed Malik Ishaq, the head of the outlawed LeJ, and Khanzada disclosed details of the operation at a news conference.
Khanzada had been leading a crackdown against militants linked to the Pakistani Taliban and al-Qaida in Punjab.
Authorities suspect the attack in his native village, Shadi Khan, could be in revenge for the minister's anti-militant campaign.
Hours after the bombing, the Pakistan military said it carried out airstrikes against suspected militant hideouts in the North Waziristan tribal district on the Afghan border, killing 40 insurgents and wounding many more.
Militant attacks have killed tens of thousands of people in Pakistan over the past decade. But the violence has significantly subsided in recent months.