Suicide bomber hits Pakistani politician's home, 23 killed

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Islamabad_(dpa) _ At least 23 people were killed and more than 60 injured Tuesday when a car bomb exploded near the residence of a minister in Pakistan's eastern province of Punjab, officials said.

The blast in Dera Ghazi Khan town demolished the house of Dost Mohammad Khosa, the provincial minister for local agencies and community development, and damaged half a dozen buildings in an adjacent market.

Mubarak Athar, the regional police chief, said a suicide bomber detonated his explosive-laden car near the main gate of Khosa's residence.

"The initial investigations have shown that it was a car suicide bombing," he said by telephone from Dera Ghazi Khan.

He said 20 people had so far been confirmed dead while 50 others were injured, adding that the explosion also damaged eight shops, a mosque and several cars.

Hours later, an official from the Rescue 1122 emergency service said that three more bodies and 10 injured people were recovered from the debris that was being cleared with the backhoes.

Iqbal said Khosa's home was the target of the attack, but the minister was not at home when it occurred. His one cousin and two servants were wounded in the incident.

Khosa's brother, Saifuddin Khosa, told local Express television that the blast injured the minister's cousin, his wife and two servants.

The explosion left a 3-metre deep crater near the main gate of Khosa's residence, officials said. It was the latest in a wave of terrorist attacks sweeping through the country in recent weeks.

Taliban militants are carrying out the deadly strikes to avenge ongoing government military operations in the lawless tribal region that borders Afghanistan.

More than 500 people have died since mid-October when over 30,000 troops launched a ground offensive in South Waziristan, which is said to host hundreds of al-Qaeda operatives.

Officials said the attacks further strengthened the country's resolve to fight Islamist insurgency.

"When the terrorists have started to target ordinary citizens, the entire nation has no option but to stand up against these barbarians with courage and unity," Punjab's Senior Minister Rana Sanaullah said on Tuesday.

The operation in South Waziristan has left around 600 Taliban fighters and some 80 soldiers, according to the military officials. The figures cannot be independently verified since the region is banned for the reporters and the aid agencies. dpa ns yam ls im tl

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