At least 72 people were killed and several others injured tonight in a suicide attack inside the revered Sufi shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar packed with devotees in Sehwan town in Pakistan's southern Sindh province.
Yet another shocking blast in southern Pakistan on Thursday has led to the death of at least 72 people and injuries to hundreds of others in a suicide attack aimed at the crowded Lal Shahbaz Qalandar shrine located in the town of Sehwan Sharif, located 200 kms northeast of Karachi, which serves the Sufi religious minority – the country has been targetted by a number small blasts within this week followed by the one today. The attack, which is likely to turn out to be one of the worst strikes in the country, was claimed by the Islamic State through its affiliated news agency.
Officials at the site said that the casualty figures are likely to rise as many have horrific injuries from which they are not expected to recover. In an early reaction on telephone to Reuters, senior police officer Shabbir Sethar said, “At least 72 are dead and over 150 have been injured.”
Th increasing number of such strikes aimed at the public comes after a brief period marked by relatively few attacks that looks to have drawn the Pakistani authorities into a false sense of security. It also showed that Pakistan’s ‘fight against terrorism’ is quite ineffective and still has a long way to go.
In the last strike in August, 2016, targetted a hospital that killed as many as 74 people in Quetta. However, that particular attack was not claimed just by the Islamic State, the Pakistani Taliban too said that its men had carried it out. Another attack in Pakistan killed 13 people – this time in Lahore earlier this week.
According to authorities at the shrine today, the bomber entered at a time when a large crowd was present to watch the Sufi ritual ‘Dhamal’. He first threw a grenade and then detonated the bomb and this caused the huge casualty figures – the bomber had walked right into the middle of the gathering before detonating the bomb. Among the dead are 12 women and 4 children.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif expressed his shock and grief and vowed vengeance against the Islamist militants. “The past few days have been hard, and my heart is with the victims. But we can’t let these events divide us, or scare us. We must stand united in this struggle for the Pakistani identity, and universal humanity,” Reuters reported the Pakistani premier as saying.
The effect of the tragedy has been made worse because of the relative poverty of the area that prevented the best medical help from reaching the injured on time. According to news agency PTI, Commissioner Hyderabad Kazi Shahid said since the shrine was located in a remote area, ambulances and vehicles and medical teams were being sent from Hyderabad, Jamshoro, Moro, Dadu and Nawabshah to care for the injured.
“Emergency has been declared at hospitals in these places and rescue operations have started,” Shahid added.
Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah said that the Pakistan army had been requested to provide night flying helicopters to shift the dead and injured. The Pakistani army said a C130 aircraft will be used to help the injured.