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Pak: 22 killed in a car bomb blast

December 15, 2009 18:40 IST

At least 22 people, including five women and two children, were killed and over 60 others injured on Tuesday when a powerful car bomb went off outside the home of a senior Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leader in Punjab province, the latest in a wave of terror attacks in Pakistan that have claimed more than 500 lives since October.

The attack targeted the residence of veteran PML-N leader Zulfiqar Khosa, who was not at home at the time of the blast, and a nearby market in Dera Ghazi Khan town, said Deputy Inspector General of Police Mubarak Ali Athar.

Officials in the local hospital put the death toll at 22, including five women and two children.

Over 60 people, including two relatives of Khosa, were also injured in the blast, which flattened part of the politician's home and eight to 10 shops.

Two survivors and three bodies were pulled out of the rubble at the market, two hours after the explosion that occurred at about 2.45 pm local time.

"Apparently the explosives were loaded in a car (which) hit the gate of my residence in Dera Ghazi Khan," Khosa, who was in a village near Islamabad at the time of the attack, told journalists.

He said a mosque and several shops near his home were destroyed.

Khosa's son Dost Muhammad Khosa, a minister in the provincial government of Punjab, said two of his cousins were injured in the attack.

Dost Muhammad described the bombing as a "direct attack on his family".

Zulfiqar Khosa said the attack had come "out of the blue" as he had not received threats from anyone.

The explosion caused a massive crater and blew out the facades of several shops and residential buildings. The blast and debris from buildings damaged several vehicles in the market.

Authorities brought in heavy machinery to remove the rubble.

Mobile phone footage aired on television showed panic-stricken people running helter-skelter moments after the blast as a plume of smoke rose into the sky.

Deputy Inspector General Athar said additional policemen had been brought in to tighten security in Dera Ghazi Khan.

Tuesday's blast was the latest in a series of suicide attacks and bombings across Pakistan that have killed over 500 people since October, when the army launched an offensive against the Taliban in South Waziristan tribal region.

However, it was the first attack targeting a senior leader of the opposition PML-N.

The recent attacks have been blamed on Taliban, who are retaliating against the military operation in the tribal belt.

In the past, Dera Ghazi Khan has also witnessed sectarian violence between Sunni and Shia groups.

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani condemned the attack in Dera Ghazi Khan, saying such cowardly acts would not deter the government's resolve to fight terrorism.  Gilani said action against terrorists would continue till their complete elimination.
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