By Aamir Latif
KARACHI, Pakistan (AA) – At least 70 people, including women and children, are believed to have been killed and over 200 injured in a suicide blast inside a famous shrine in southwestern Sindh province on Thursday, according to Dr. Qazi Moeen, head of the district hospital in Sehwan.
Thousands of devotees from across the country arrive at the shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar every Thursday.
A suicide bomber blew up himself inside the main hall of the shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar — a famous Sufi saint — in Sehwan town, located some 300 kilometers off Karachi, city police chief Tariq Wilayat told reporters.
Imdad Soomro, an eyewitness told Anadolu Agency on the phone that the suicide bomber struck a crowd of hundreds after the Magrib (sunset) prayer.
“I can see several bodies and scores of injured lying inside the hall and in the courtyard crying for help. There is a total chaos here,” Soomro said.
Health officials fear a rise in death toll as dozens were stated to be in critical condition.
Footage aired on local TV channels showed local people rushing to the scene and shifting victims into private vehicles and a handful of ambulances and rushing them to nearby hospitals.
Ambulances and medical teams from Hyderabad and other adjoining cities were dispatched to the site following the attack, for which a little-known terrorist group, Daulat-e-Islam Khurassan, has claimed responsibility.
The chief of naval staff placed all navy hospitals in Karachi on high alert.
Chief Minister Sindh Syed Murad Ali Shah had directed all rescue teams to reach the spot of the attack.
“Doctors from Jamshoro, Nawabshah and Hyderabad were sent to Sehwan,” Shah told DawnNews. He also said security has been tightened at all shrines across the province.
Sehwan is Shah’s constituency.
A Pakistan Air Force (PAF) C-130 aircraft was tasked to airlift the injured from Nawabshah airport, while a navy helicopter was also tasked to airlift the injured from Sehwan and its surrounding areas, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said.
President Mamnoon Hussain, and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif have condemned the terrorist attack which is the latest in a string of suicide attacks that have rocked this South Asian nation in the last four days.
“This is an attack on entire Pakistan,” Sharif said in a statement adding that the country was facing a difficult time in the last few days but “the nation stands united against terrorists and will win this war”.
At least 52 people were killed and over 100 injured in a similar blast at a shrine in southwestern Pakistan last November.
Additional report by The Musilm News
[Photo: Hazrat Lal Shahbaz Qalandar shrine By Ghazi Creative Commons]