IS bomber kills 76 at Sehwan shrine -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

IS bomber kills 76 at Sehwan shrine

Pakistan Press Foundation

Sehwan/Karachi – At least 76 people died Thursday when a bomb ripped through a crowded Sufi shrine in Sindh, in the deadliest attack to hit the country so far in 2017.

The Islamic State group claimed the attack, at the shrine of Hazrat Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Sehwan, in a statement carried by its propaganda agency – Amaq.

The military and civilian leaders vowed revenge for the attack, which came after a bloody week of extremist assaults shook the country’s growing sense of security.

Lal Shahbaz Qalander is country’s most revered Sufi shrine, dedicated to a 13th-century saint whose spirit is invoked by devotees in ecstatic daily dancing and singing rituals in Sehwan Sharif.

Thursdays are an especially important day for local Sufis, meaning that the shrine was packed at the time of the blast. A police source said a suicide bomber had entered the shrine and blown himself up among the devotees.

“The loud explosion took place inside the complex of the shrine,” ASP Rashid told media persons, with eyewitnesses reporting a stampede inside the crowded shrine following the explosion.

“So far 70 people have been killed and more than 150 wounded,” Inspector General of Police for Sindh province AD Khawaja told AFP.

Provincial health minister Sikandar Ali Mandhro also said at least 70 people had died while 250 were wounded, 40 of them critically.

TV reports later quoted Eidhi sources as saying the death toll had surged to 76. Police and security forces cordoned off the area and arrested at least two suspects from the blast site.

Emergency services are basic in Sehwan, with the nearest main hospital some 130 kilometres away. The town is some 200 kilometres northeast of Karachi.

Images of the shrine showed blood smeared on the white floor around the grave, with debris and shoes scattered around.

Survivors and local residents, many in tears, were helping the blood-soaked wounded on to stretchers, while at Sehwan’s overcrowded medical facility the injured were being treated on floors and in corridors.

“We were there for the love of our saint, for the worship of Allah,” a wailing woman told the Dawn News television outside the shrine, her headscarf streaked in blood. “Who would hurt us when we were there for devotion?”

Pakistanis vented their anger and grief on social media late Thursday, with users calling the shrine a “capital of spirituality” and a “seat of interfaith harmony”.

Senior police officer Shabbir Sethar told Reuters from a local hospital that the death toll was likely to rise.

Medical Superintendent of the ill-equipped state hospital in Sehwan said that over 100 injured had been brought to the facility while the administration received more than 20 bodies.

Rescue officials said dozens of wounded people were being ferried in private cars to hospitals in Hyderabad, Dadu and Jamshoro where emergency had been declared.

Edhi Foundation chief Faisal Edhi said that all ambulances in the nearby cities were sent to Sehwan Sharif to transport the injured to hospitals.

“Many wounded people are in critical condition and they will be shifted to Karachi as soon as Navy helicopters and C-130 plane reach nearest airport,” IGP Khawaja said.

Health Minister Sikandar Mandhro said emergency had also been declared in Karachi hospitals. He told media that the blast occurred during ‘Dhamaal’, an ecstatic dance on drumbeat.

The Assistant Superintendent of Police in Sehwan said the suicide bomber entered the shrine through its Golden gate. The attacker blew himself up after throwing a grenade, which failed to explode, he said.

Later reports said a PAF C-130 plane air lifted the injured from Nawab Shah Airport while Navy helicopters picked the injured from Sehwan and surroundings areas. Army and Rangers personnel were leading the rescue effort at the blast site.

The shrine around the tomb of Sufi philosopher-poet Lal Shahbaz Qalandar was built in 1356 and decorated with Sindhi ‘kashi-tiles’, mirror-work and a gold-plated door donated by the Shah of Iran, Reza Shah Pahlavi and installed by the late Prime Minister of Pakistan, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

Sufism, a mystic Islamic order that believes in living saints, worships through music and is viewed as heretical by some hardline groups.

The Sunni terrorist IS group has targeted Sufi shrines in Pakistan previously, killing as many as 52 people in a bomb blast at the Shah Noorani shrine in Balochistan province in November last year.

The Islamic State is primarily based in the Middle East and analysts say it is still scrabbling for purchase in Pakistan despite several high-profile attacks in the country. Officials claim the group is on the retreat in neighbouring Afghanistan, where it had gained significant ground a couple of years ago.

The country has seen a dramatic improvement in security, but a series of attacks this week – most claimed by the Pakistani Taliban – has shaken the growing sense of optimism.

Four suicide bombers struck northwest Pakistan on Wednesday, killing seven people and unnerving civilians further.

Also on Wednesday, the terrorist struck in Quetta, the capital of Balochistan whose Awaran district was also attacked yesterday (Thursday).

On Monday, a suicide attacker claimed 14 lives outside Punjab Assembly in Lahore. The martyred included Chief Traffic Officer IGP Syed Mobin Ahmad and Additional IGP Zahid Gondal.

The violence has shattered a period of improving security, underscoring how militants still pose a threat to stability in the nuclear-armed country of 190 million people.

The recent attacks underscore country’s struggle to stamp out extremism, which was stepped up after the country’s deadliest ever attack, a Pakistani Taliban assault on a school in Peshawar in 2014 which left more than 150 people dead – mostly children.

The army intensified a long-awaited operation in the semi-autonomous tribal areas, where militants had previously operated with impunity, and the government launched a vaunted National Action Plan against extremism.

Emboldened Pakistanis are once again attending public gatherings and the growing confidence is palpable after more than a decade of militant attacks.

But critics have repeatedly warned that the crackdown does not address the root causes of extremism, and groups like the Pakistani Taliban – and, increasingly, Islamic State – can still carry out devastating assaults.

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a “seat of interfaith harmony”.

Senior police officer Shabbir Sethar told Reuters from a local hospital that the death toll was likely to rise.

Medical Superintendent of the ill-equipped state hospital in Sehwan said that over 100 injured had been brought to the facility while the administration received more than 20 bodies.

Rescue officials said dozens of wounded people were being ferried in private cars to hospitals in Hyderabad, Dadu and Jamshoro where emergency had been declared.

Edhi Foundation chief Faisal Edhi said that all ambulances in the nearby cities were sent to Sehwan Sharif to transport the injured to hospitals.

“Many wounded people are in critical condition and they will be shifted to Karachi as soon as Navy helicopters and C-130 plane reach nearest airport,” IGP Khawaja said.

Health Minister Sikandar Mandhro said emergency had also been declared in Karachi hospitals. He told media that the blast occurred during ‘Dhamaal’, an ecstatic dance on drumbeat.

The Assistant Superintendent of Police in Sehwan said the suicide bomber entered the shrine through its Golden gate. The attacker blew himself up after throwing a grenade, which failed to explode, he said.

Later reports said a PAF C-130 plane air lifted the injured from Nawab Shah Airport while Navy helicopters picked the injured from Sehwan and surroundings areas. Army and Rangers personnel were leading the rescue effort at the blast site.

The shrine around the tomb of Sufi philosopher-poet Lal Shahbaz Qalandar was built in 1356 and decorated with Sindhi ‘kashi-tiles’, mirror-work and a gold-plated door donated by the Shah of Iran, Reza Shah Pahlavi and installed by the late Prime Minister of Pakistan, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

Sufism, a mystic Islamic order that believes in living saints, worships through music and is viewed as heretical by some hardline groups.

The Sunni terrorist IS group has targeted Sufi shrines in Pakistan previously, killing as many as 52 people in a bomb blast at the Shah Noorani shrine in Balochistan province in November last year.

The Islamic State is primarily based in the Middle East and analysts say it is still scrabbling for purchase in Pakistan despite several high-profile attacks in the country. Officials claim the group is on the retreat in neighbouring Afghanistan, where it had gained significant ground a couple of years ago.

The country has seen a dramatic improvement in security, but a series of attacks this week – most claimed by the Pakistani Taliban – has shaken the growing sense of optimism.

Four suicide bombers struck northwest Pakistan on Wednesday, killing seven people and unnerving civilians further.

Also on Wednesday, the terrorist struck in Quetta, the capital of Balochistan whose Awaran district was also attacked yesterday (Thursday).

On Monday, a suicide attacker claimed 14 lives outside Punjab Assembly in Lahore. The martyred included Chief Traffic Officer IGP Syed Mobin Ahmad and Additional IGP Zahid Gondal.

The violence has shattered a period of improving security, underscoring how militants still pose a threat to stability in the nuclear-armed country of 190 million people.

The recent attacks underscore country’s struggle to stamp out extremism, which was stepped up after the country’s deadliest ever attack, a Pakistani Taliban assault on a school in Peshawar in 2014 which left more than 150 people dead – mostly children.

The army intensified a long-awaited operation in the semi-autonomous tribal areas, where militants had previously operated with impunity, and the government launched a vaunted National Action Plan against extremism.

Emboldened Pakistanis are once again attending public gatherings and the growing confidence is palpable after more than a decade of militant attacks.

But critics have repeatedly warned that the crackdown does not address the root causes of extremism, and groups like the Pakistani Taliban – and, increasingly, Islamic State – can still carry out devastating assaults.

The Nation

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