SEHWAN SHARIF: At least 72 people were killed and more than 250 others were injured when a bomb ripped through a crowded Sufi shrine Thursday in southern Pakistan, officials and local media said.
Daesh claimed the attack, which struck a shrine of Sufi saint Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in the town of Sehwan in Sindh province, some 200 kilometres (124 miles) northeast of the provincial capital Karachi.
"We have received reports about a blast and (are) rushing to the site," Qazi Shahid, deputy local government commissioner for nearby Hyderabad, told AFP. An army spokesperson said they are helping the Sehwan blast victims.
A police source said that a suicide bomber had entered the shrine and blown himself up among the devotees, adding the shrine was crowded on a Thursday, considered a sacred day to pray at the shrine.
Lal Shahbaz Qalandar’s shrine is located in Sehwan City of Sindh’s Jamshoro district.
At 7.20pm (Dubai time), Geo TV reported at least 30 people were feared dead.
Police said it was a suicide attack.
“The blast occurred within the premises of the shrine, we have declared emergency in hospitals and are shifting the injured to nearby hospitals,” Deputy Commissioner Munawar Mahesar told ARY News.
Provincial Health Minister Sikandar Mandhro told media that the blast occurred during “Dhamaal”, a traditional Sufi dance held at the shrine visited daily by thousands.
Eye witnesses too claimed that the blast occurred within the premises of the shrine.
No group claimed responsibility for the attack.
Earlier on Thursday, Pakistani counter-terrorism police raided a militant hideout and killed six suspected members of a Taliban faction that has launched a new campaign of violence against the government, police said on Thursday.
Since Monday, several bomb attacks across the country have shattered a period of improving security, underscoring how militant groups still pose a threat in the nuclear-armed country of 180 million people.
The Counter Terrorism Department in Punjab province said its officers surrounded a hideout of the Pakistani Taliban's Jamaat-ur-Ahrar faction in the city of Multan late on Wednesday and ordered the suspects inside to surrender.
Six militants were killed while three or four escaped under cover of darkness, the department added. Two hand grenades, two automatic rifles and two pistols were recovered.
Wave of attacks
In the past, terrorists have targeted shrines of Sufi saints.
In November, at least 52 people were killed and more than 100 got injured in a suicide blast in Shah Noorani shrine near Hub in Balochistan's Lasbella district. Additional Deputy Commissioner Lasbella Tariq Mengal had said that 500 to 600 people were in the shrine at the time of the blast.
The Sehwan attack on Thursday is part of a recent wave of terrorist strikes in the country, the fifth blast in less than a week targeting innocent people.
On Sunday, a suicide attack in Lahore killed 14 people and wounded over 60 others.
A suicide bomb attack near the Punjab provincial assembly in the city of Lahore on Monday killed 13 people and wounded more than 80.
On Wednesday, three suicide bombers targeted Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the adjoining tribal areas leaving around leaving seven people dead.
One of the incidents occurred in Peshawar where a suicide bomber riding a motorbike hit a vehicle carrying civil judges, while two other suicide bombers blew themselves up at separate locations in Mohmand Agency.