HYDERABAD/ KARACHI: At least 72 people have been killed and over 200 injured in a suicide bombing at the shrine of Sufi saint Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Sindh’s Sehwan town on Thursday, officials confirmed.
Police confirmed it was a suicide attack. IG AD Khawaja revised an earlier death toll, saying that at least 72 people (43 men, 20 children and nine women) have been killed and many more injured.
The bomber struck inside the compound, where a large number of devotees were performing dhamal, devotional dance, sources said.
According to a police source, the bomber entered the shrine and blew himself up amid a large assembly of devotees, many of whom were there because Thursday is considered a sacred day to pray at the shrine.
Sehwan is 132 kilometres from Jamshoro and around 140 kilometres from Hyderabad.
“The incident took place outside the mazar (shrine) near Golden Gate," Hyderabad Commissioner Kazi Shahid Parvez told The Express Tribune.
The bombing is reminiscent of a near-identical attack at Dargah Shah Noorani, in Khuzdar district of Balochistan, late last year. At least 45 people, including women and children, were killed in that attack.
IS-claimed bombing kills at least 52 at Khuzdar shrine
An emergency has been declared in hospitals across Dadu, Sehwan and Hyderabad.
“Ambulances from Hyderabad and Jamshoro have been sent to Sehwan. The town has a taluka hospital but it is not equipped with a trauma centre to deal with emergency cases,” in-charge Edhi Foundation Mairaj Ahmed told The Express Tribune.
Army chief General Qamar Bajwa also directed the medical teams to assist in relief and rescue operation.
#COAS directed imed assistance to Sehwan blast victims. Army /Rangers moved incl medical support. Hyderabad CMH ready to receive casualties.— DG ISPR (@OfficialDGISPR) February 16, 2017
Navy helicopters, PAF aircraft are being dispatched for rescue operations, according to the ISPR.
#Sehwan. PAF C 130 will lift injured from Nawab Shah airport. Navy heli will lift injured from Sehwan and surroundings.— DG ISPR (@OfficialDGISPR) February 16, 2017
#Sehwan. Air Chief directs to utilise C 130 till complete evac. Injured will be treated at PAF hosps too. Ts will not be spared.— DG ISPR (@OfficialDGISPR) February 16, 2017
Eyewitnesses described gory scenes in the shrine's compound where human body parts were seen scattered. Some bodies were also seen lying on the floor.
#Sehwan. CNS placed all Naval Hospitals at Karachi on high alert. Ready to receive injured through night capable heli.— DG ISPR (@OfficialDGISPR) February 16, 2017
'Terrorist acts being executed from Afghanistan'
Meanwhile, the ISPR said the terrorist acts were being executed from sanctuaries based in Afghanistan.
“Recent terrorist acts are being executed on the directions from hostile powers and from sanctuaries in Afghanistan. We shall defend and respond,” DG ISPR Major General Asif Ghafoor said in a statement.
Recent Ts acts are being exec on directions from hostile powers and from sanctuaries in Afghanistan. We shall defend and respond.— DG ISPR (@OfficialDGISPR) February 16, 2017
"Each drop of nation's blood shall be avenged immediately.
No more restraint for anyone," the army chief was quoted as saying.
#COAS, "Each drop of nation's blood shall be revenged, and revenged immediately. No more restraint for anyone."— DG ISPR (@OfficialDGISPR) February 16, 2017
Lahore, Quetta — the bombers are back
Local authorities have appealed the people for blood donation. Many of the injured were shifted to the hospital in rickshaws, on foot and on carts before the ambulances arrived.
IS claims responsibility
Global terror group Islamic State claimed responsibility of the attack, the group's affiliated news agency AMAQ reported.
Zardari to visit Sehwan
Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari has left for Karachi from Dubai, sources told The Express Tribune. The former president will also pay a visit to the shrine.
The country has seen an upsurge in terrorist violence over the past few days, with bombers striking in Lahore, Peshawar, Mohmand Agency, and now in Sindh. Seven people were killed in two suicide attacks in Mohmand, while a bomber targeted a van carrying lower court judges in Peshawar.
Four bombers strike in 24 hours
Torkham border closed
Security forces have shut down the Torkham border between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
"Pakistan-Afghanistan border closed with immediate effect till further orders due to security reasons," the ISPR said.
Pakistan-Afghanistan Border closed with immediate effects till further orders due to security reasons.— DG ISPR (@OfficialDGISPR) February 16, 2017
Political leaders including Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan condemned the deadly attack.
The attack on the shrines of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar represents an attack on the progressive, inclusive future of Pakistan: PM Nawaz Sharif— PML(N) (@pmln_org) February 16, 2017
Strongly condemn the blast at Sehwan. My heartfelt thoughts and prayers for the families of the victims. Praying for the recovery of injured— Sardar Ayaz Sadiq (@AyazSadiq122) February 16, 2017
Strongly condemn at bomb blast incident in #SehwanSharif and prayed for martyrs and injured people. May Allah protect Pakistan— Abdul Aleem Khan (@aleemkhan_pti) February 16, 2017
Deeply sad at the attack on Shrine of Saint Lal Shehbaz Qalandar.The brutal series of attacks by our enemies targeting innocents is barbaric— Naz Baloch (@NazBaloch_) February 16, 2017
Innocent citizens & our soldiers continue to fall prey to shameful acts of terrorism - devotees at Lal Shahbaz Qalandar's shrine latest vics— Shireen Mazari (@ShireenMazari1) February 16, 2017
Shocked & saddened by condemnable terrorist attack inside Sufi shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar targeting innocent ppl incl women & children.— Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) February 16, 2017