International Desk: A suicide bomber attacked a crowded Sufi shrine in southern Pakistan on Thursday, killing over 70 people and wounding dozens more in the deadliest of a wave of bombings across the South Asian nation this week.
A spokesman for medical charity Edhi said the attacker appeared to have targeted the women’s wing of the shrine, and around 30 children accompanying their mothers were dead.
Islamic State, the Middle East-based militant group which has a small but increasingly prominent presence in Pakistan, claimed responsibility for the attack, the group’s affiliated news agency AMAQ reported.
Senior police officer Shabbir Sethar told Reuters from a local hospital that the death toll was likely to rise.
“At least 72 are dead and over 150 have been injured,” Sethar said by telephone.
Television footage from the famous Lal Shahbaz Qalandar shrine in the town of Sehwan Sharif showed army and paramilitary medical teams reaching the site and injured people being taken to nearby hospitals in ambulances and a military helicopter.
“We were there for the love of our saint, for the worship of Allah,” a wailing woman told the Dawn News television channel outside the shrine, her headscarf streaked in blood. “Who would hurt us when we were there for devotion?”
The attack comes as the Pakistani Taliban and rival Islamist militant groups carry out their threats of a new offensive.
The violence has shattered a period of improving security, underscoring how militants still undermine stability in the nuclear-armed country of 190 million people.
The high death toll at the shrine makes it one of the worst attacks in Pakistan in recent years.
In August last year, at least 74 people, mostly lawyers, were killed in a suicide bombing of a hospital in the southwestern city of Quetta.
In November, an explosion claimed by Islamic State ripped through a Muslim shrine in southwestern Pakistan, killing at least 52 people and wounding scores.