Pak shrine blast kills 43

Kuwait Times - - FRONT PAGE -

At least 43 peo­ple died and scores of oth­ers were in­jured when a bomb ex­ploded at a re­mote Sufi shrine in south­ern Pak­istan’s restive Balochis­tan prov­ince yes­ter­day, of­fi­cials said. The blast, claimed by mil­i­tant group Is­lamic State, hit a crowd of wor­ship­pers par­tic­i­pat­ing in a cer­e­mony at the shrine of the Sufi saint Shah Noorani in Khuzdar district, some 750 km south of pro­vin­cial cap­i­tal Quetta. “At least 43 peo­ple have been killed and dozens of oth­ers wounded,” Sar­fraz Bugti told a press con­fer­ence in the south­west­ern port town of Gwadar, with­out pro­vid­ing a pre­cise fig­ure for those in­jured. Au­thor­i­ties ear­lier said 25 peo­ple had been killed and at least 35 oth­ers wounded.

Hakim Lasi, a res­cue of­fi­cial with the Edhi Foun­da­tion, Pak­istan’s largest wel­fare or­ga­ni­za­tion, told Geo TV chan­nel the char­ity had re­ceived ra­dio re­ports that nearly 100 oth­ers were wounded, in­clud­ing women and chil­dren. Lo­cal of­fi­cials said wor­ship­pers were tak­ing part in a devotional dance ses­sion, which is held daily be­fore dusk, when the blast oc­curred. Res­cuers were scram­bling to reach the shrine, which is lo­cated in a re­mote, moun­tain­ous re­gion with lim­ited med­i­cal fa­cil­i­ties. Au­thor­i­ties have dis­patched am­bu­lances and med­i­cal work­ers from Karachi, a three-hour drive from the blast site.

Pak­istan Army spokesman Lieu­tenant Gen­eral Asim Ba­jwa said troops and med­i­cal teams had been dis­patched but that “dif­fi­cult ter­rain and long dis­tance” were ham­per­ing their progress. Ba­jwa said that 20 am­bu­lances and 50 soldiers were about to reach the site, while a fur­ther 45 am­bu­lances 100 troops were also on their way, along with med­i­cal teams. A mil­i­tary he­li­copter would at­tempt evac­u­a­tions at night, he added, but med­i­cal teams could not ac­cess the area by plane as their were no air strips close by.

Pres­i­dent Mam­noon Hus­sain and Prime Min­is­ter Nawaz Sharif strongly con­demned the bomb­ing in sep­a­rate state­ments. “The gov­ern­ment is de­ter­mined to elim­i­nate ter­ror­ism and ex­trem­ists from the coun­try,” Hus­sain said in a state­ment ex­press­ing sym­pa­thy with the vic­tims and their fam­i­lies. A state­ment from Sharif’s of­fice said the prime min­is­ter called for the “best med­i­cal treat­ment” to be given to the wounded.

Up to 600 peo­ple were at the shrine at the time of the at­tack, ac­cord­ing to lo­cal of­fi­cial Tariq Men­gal, who told Geo TV that many devo­tees trav­elled to the site from Karachi dur­ing week­ends. The Is­lamic State claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity for the at­tack via Amaq, its af­fil­i­ated news agency. “35 dead and 95 wounded Shi­ite vis­i­tors in a mar­tyr­dom op­er­a­tion at­tack by the Is­lamic State fighter that tar­geted a shrine in a city in Balochis­tan,” the agency said. The bomb­ing fol­lows the killing of Am­jad Sabri, a renowned Sufi singer, by two gun­men in Karachi in June. Some ob­servers have said that Sabri may have been as­sas­si­nated be­cause he was a high-pro­file Sufi.

Su­fism, a mys­tic Is­lamic or­der that be­lieves in liv­ing saints, wor­ships through mu­sic, and is viewed as hereti­cal by some hard­line groups in­clud­ing the Tale­ban. Balochis­tan, which bor­ders Iran and Afghanistan, has oil and gas re­sources but is af­flicted by Is­lamist mil­i­tancy, sec­tar­ian violence be­tween Sunni and Shi­ite Mus­lims and a sep­a­ratist in­sur­gency. — AFP

— AP

HUB, Pak­istan: Res­cue work­ers and vol­un­teers un­load an in­jured vic­tim of a bomb blast at a Sufi shrine from an am­bu­lance upon his ar­rival at a lo­cal hos­pi­tal in this town near Karachi yes­ter­day.

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