At least 76 people were killed and nearly 250 others were injured on Thursday night when an Islamic State suicide bomber blew himself up inside the crowded shrine of revered Sufi Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Sehwan town in Pakistan.
In a retaliatory action, Pakistani security forces today killed more than 24 militants in a nationwide crackdown. The crackdown was launched simultaneously by the federal and provincial governments after at least eight terror attacks rocked Pakistan since last week.
On Thursday, hundreds of devotees were present inside the premises of the vast mausoleum of the saint in the Sehwan town, some 200 kms northeast of Karachi, at the time of blast.
The bomber had entered the shrine through its Golden gate and blown himself up near the site where the ritual of Sufi dance ‘Dhamal’ was taking place.
The attacker had first thrown a couple of grenades to cause panic, before triggering the blast, the police said.
“We had around 27 policemen on duty at the shrine and they were CCTV cameras also. But he took advantage of the rush. I don’t think this is a security lapse,” Inspector-General of police in Sindh, AD Khawaja said.
DIG police Hyderabad range, Manzoor Rind told the media that the death toll had climbed to 76 and the number of injured were around 250. He also said that several of the injured were critical.
Terror outfit ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack.
Commissioner Hyderabad Qazi Shahid Pervaz said since the shrine was located in a remote area, some 130 kms from Hyderabad, ambulances and vehicles and medical teams had to be sent from various places including Hyderabad, Jamshoro, Moro and Nawabshah. Pakistan Army and Navy had sent three night flying helicopters and ambulances to aid rescue work.
He said the shrine has been sealed and police have collected initial evidence and secured CCTV footage.
This is the fifth major terrorist strike in Pakistan within a week’s time.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif condemned the attack and urged Pakistan to “stand united”. He said the attack on the shrine is an attack on the “progressive and inclusive future” of Pakistan.
“The Sufi people predate Pakistan’s history, and played an important part in the struggle for its formation…An attack on them is a direct threat to Jinnah’s Pakistan and will be dealt as such,” Sharif said.
(With inputs from agencies)