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.
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.
Navy helicopters, PAF aircraft are being dispatched for rescue operations, according to the ISPR.
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.
‘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.
“Each drop of nation’s blood shall be avenged immediately.
No more restraint for anyone,” the army chief was quoted as saying.
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.
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.
Political leaders including Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan condemned the deadly attack.