Possibility of ‘insider involvement’ traumatises Attock's Shadi Khan

Written by  Published by:Shiite News
Published in Pakistan
Tuesday, 18 August 2015

ATTOCK: The terrorist attack on Punjab Home Minister retired Col Shuja Khanzada has left the whole village of Shadi Khan in shock.

According to the minister’s personal staff, the attackers – whoever they were – had intimate knowledge of his movements and police say that circumstantial evidence points towards the attackers having strong connections in the locality.

This is shocking and frightening for residents of this small village, since most of them belong to the same clan. Nearly everyone Dawn spoke to seemed visibly shaken by Sunday’s attack and expressed a similar sentiment: they had never been under threat and did not expect that terrorists could strike so close to home.

Shadi Khan is a small settlement of around 250 houses and there are no shops or restaurants in the village square, so it is unlikely that an outsider can know the ins and outs of the area without local support. The family compound is a sprawling gated community located off the main road and houses nearly all members of the Khanzada clan, including former lawmaker Taj Muhammad Khanzada.

The minister’s house is a five-minute drive from the location where the attack took place.

“[Col] Khanzada came out of his house at around 10:30am and reached this dera at around 10:35am,” the late minister’s secretary Khawaja Shakeel said, pointing in the general direction of Col Khanzada’s residence. “He quickly reached as he had to attend a meeting with the general public. People began to come up to him and greeted him one by one, and that’s when the blast occurred; between 10:45am and 10:48am.”

Late home minister’s staff, investigators agree attack was not possible without local support
He acknowledged that clerics from various banned outfits had been unhappy with the slain minister of late and there were a large number of seminaries, said to have links with extremist groups, in the adjoining villages. Their imprint is visible upon entering the village; the flag of Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ) flies proudly on top of the main roundabout.

“[The minister] had given strong statements against rising religious extremism in the area after a suicide vest-making factory was discovered in Hazro,” Mr Shakeel added.

Sheikh Javed, another aide of the former home minister, said that Col Khanzada had received several threats, but never insisted on added security for visitors at his dera.

“This is why the bomber could reach him so easily,” he said, adding, “The main problem is that there are too many seminaries in the Waisa village, just 2 kilometres from here.”

A police official confirmed that the Counter Terrorism Department had raided many of the seminaries several times over the past two to three months in coordination with the local police, and had made some arrests.

Unusual MO

Initial investigations into the attack on the Punjab home minister have revealed that ball-bearings or nails – which are a hallmark of suicide vests and are used to maximise the damage inflicted in a suicide bombing – were not used in the attack. However, investigators say that the chemical composition of the explosive material used had caused severe burns to victims.

“Apart from injuries sustained due to the impact of the blast and broken bones from the falling debris, all the bodies bore severe burn marks,” Rango Police Station House Officer (SHO) Ghulam Shabbir told Dawn.

A Punjab police official told Dawn that 16 of the deceased had been identified, whereas the two unidentified corpses possibly belonged to the attackers.

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