ATTOCK - Shuja Khanzada was receiving his constituents and fielding their complaints when the suicide bomber detonated his explosives and turned his sprawling Attock haveli into a scene of carnage.

Eyewitnesses described how the explosion ripped the roof off the 13 room mansion, trapped dozens in the rubble and left the home minister and eighteen others dead.

Some of his visitors had arrived to offer condolences for the death of one of Shuja Khanzada’s relatives, while others, like Altaf Khan had brought a petition. It was still gripped tightly in his hand when he was found lying in a pool of blood on the minister’s veranda, said Naushad Khan, 41, a local landlord.

“I was sitting at a home near the Hujra of minister and offering Fateh with the relatives of a local when I sprang up with voice of a big bang. It was a terrible voice and I saw a balloon of thick white smoke emitting from Hujra,” he said.

The smell of burned flesh hung in the air and made it hard to breathe, he added.

“I have never seen such a horrible blast...Altaf was holding a file in his hand that may be some application he wished to table before the minister,” he said with tears rolling down his cheeks.

Khan Ghalib, 42, one of Shuja Khanzada’s servants, was filling a jug of water from a cooler when the explosion shock the whole neighbourhood. He ran towards the Hujra where he saw the injured writhing in pain near the gate. Survivors and neighbours dug at their debris with their bare hands to reach those buried below. “The explosion was so powerful that I felt as if the sky had fallen,” Ghalib, a long-standing family retainer, said.

The suicide bomber had entered the haveli posing as a shepherd when he triggered the explosion at 10.40am, said Attock police chief Nadeem Hussain. “He had a calf and it was also burnt to ashes after the blast,” he added.

Strewn throughout the devastation caused by the blast were single shoes, broken chairs and masonry. The smell of charred flesh hung heavy in the air as soldiers and rescue workers arrived to free survivors. In the absence of heavy machinery the pace was slow. Muhammad Javed, who lives near the compound, was among the first t reach the scene. “People were crying for help from under the rubble for two hours,” he said. “The rescue workers came very late.”

Officials said they were trying to determine whether the attacker had an accomplice. A bomb disposal squad official, requesting anonymity, said 32 kg of explosives was used in the blast. Forensic experts were combing the blast site to collect evidence.

Mushtaq Ahmad Sukhera, IGP said the home minister knew there was a threat to his life but was ‘careless’ regarding his security. “Whenever, I drew his attention toward this, he would say Allah has a final day of death for me.”