BHAKKAR, Pakistan (Reuters) – A suicide bomber killed at least 12 people and wounded around 30 including a leading Pakistani opposition politician and member of the minority Shi’ite Muslim community on Monday, police said.
The attack targeted the home of Rashid Akbar Khan Nawani, a member of parliament for former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s party, in the town of Bhakkar, 260 km (160 miles) southwest of Islamabad.
“The bomber blew himself up in the courtyard when Mr. Nawani was sitting with his supporters there,” Khadim Hussain, a police officer, told Reuters.
Shaukat Javed, police chief of Punjab, said 12 people were killed.
Several of the wounded were critical, but Nawani was only slightly hurt, according to his brother.
Nawani has spoken out in parliament several times recently against growing sectarian violence between Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims.
Deep in the central province of Punjab, Bhakkar is in an area where sectarian tensions have run high.
In 2002, a bomb killed 12 Shi’ite women and children at a nearby religious center.
“It could be a sectarian-related attack as he belongs to the Shi’ite community,” said Khan Baig, a senior police officer in the region.
Several Sunni militant groups, such as Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, that regard Shi’ites as their enemy, also share a similar world view to al Qaeda and have forged links with Osama bin Laden’s network.
Bhakkar is close to Dera Ismail Khan, a town that is a gateway to the South Waziristan tribal region — a notorious sanctuary for al Qaeda and Taliban militants.
Police cordoned off the site of the attack.
Body parts, shoes and shredded clothes were scattered in the courtyard of the house where the blast took place.
Hussain said the head of the suspected bomber had been found and other evidence was being collected.
“Security has been tightened at all exit and entry points to and from Bhakkar,” he told Reuters.
The Bhakkar attack was the second on a politician in the country in less than a week.
A suicide bomber killed himself and three other people in Pakistan on Thursday in the northwestern town of Charsadda in an attack aimed at a prominent regional politician whose party is a member of the ruling coalition.
Pakistan has been bracing for more attacks since a suicide bomber destroyed the Marriott hotel in Islamabad and killed 55 people on September 20.
Families of British diplomats and U.N. staff were ordered home last week as a security precaution.