Karachi: A suicide bomber killed and wounded dozens of Sufi worshippers as they performed a ritual in Pakistan’s Lal Shahbaz Qalandar Sufi shrine.
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) group claimed responsibility for Thursday’s attack in Sehwan, in Sindh province, via it Amaq website.
Medical workers told Al Jazeera that at least 45 people were killed in the blast, and at least 150 were injured.
Sikandar Mandhro, Sindh’s health minister, told Al Jazeera: “There was a huge crowd gathered there for the [religious gathering] at the shrine, and there was a very big explosion.”
“The medical facilities at Sehwan are not equipped to deal with a very big emergency, so our first priority right now is to get help to the wounded.”
The closest hospital to the shrine is around 70km away.
Eyewitness Nazakat Ali was praying when the bomb exploded.
“The explosion happened, and everyone started running,” he told Al Jazeera, speaking from a hospital in Sehwan. “We were pushed out, there were so many people. I saw blood. I saw people injured and dead bodies.”
Haider Ali, manager of the Sehwan Divine Our, told Al Jazeera that police have sealed off the shrine.
“Our security staff heard it,” he said. “There are a lot of police and ambulances around now. It’s complete chaos.”
String of attacks
Hundreds of people, often thousands, gather at the shrine every Thursday to pray and participate in the Sufi tradition of dhamaal – a form of devotional percussion and dance.
In November, at least 52 people were killed in a suicide attack on a shrine to Sufi saint Shah Noorani in Balochistan province, in an attack claimed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) group.
Thursday’s blast is the latest in a series of attacks across Pakistan since Monday, when 13 people were killed in a suicide bombing at a rally in the eastern city of Lahore.
That attack was followed on Wednesday by a suicide bombing at a government office in the Mohmand tribal area and a suicide attack on government employees in Peshawar, killing six people.
Two police officers were killed on Tuesday while trying to defuse a bomb in the Balochistan provincial capital of Quetta.