At least 75 die in blast at Pak­istani Sufi shrine

Pak­istani of­fi­cials have ex­pressed skep­ti­cism about the pres­ence of the Is­lamic State in the coun­try, but they ac­knowl­edge that some lo­cal mil­i­tant groups have ex­pressed sup­port for it.

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - INTERNATIONAL - SAL­MAN MA­SOOD In­for­ma­tion for this ar­ti­cle was contributed by Adil Jawad and Mu­nir Ahmed of The As­so­ci­ated Press.

ISLAMABAD — A sui­cide bomber turned a spir­i­tual dance cel­e­bra­tion at a re­li­gious shrine into a slaugh­ter­house Thurs­day, killing at least 75 peo­ple and wound­ing more than 250 in the worst act of ter­ror­ism to hit Pak­istan in months.

At least 50 of the wounded were crit­i­cally hurt in the ex­plo­sion at the Sufi shrine in a re­mote part of south­ern Pak­istan, of­fi­cials said. At least 20 women and nine chil­dren were among the dead.

The Is­lamic State, the ex­treme Sunni mil­i­tant or­ga­ni­za­tion based in Syria and Iraq, claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity for the at­tack.

The Is­lamic State, which re­gards mem­bers of other Mus­lim groups as non­be­liev­ers de­serv­ing death, also claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity for an at­tack on a Sufi shrine in south­west­ern Pak­istan in Novem­ber. Su­fism, pop­u­lar in Pak­istan, is re­garded as a rel­a­tively tol­er­ant branch of Is­lam.

Pak­istani of­fi­cials have ex­pressed skep­ti­cism about the pres­ence of the Is­lamic State in the coun­try, but they ac­knowl­edge that some lo­cal mil­i­tant groups have ex­pressed sup­port for it.

A wave of mil­i­tant strikes has shaken Pak­istan this week, un­der­scor­ing the chal­lenges faced by the civil and mil­i­tary lead­er­ship to counter ex­trem­ist vi­o­lence. At least eight at­tacks across the coun­try were re­ported, most claimed by the Tal­iban.

On Wed­nes­day, seven peo­ple were killed in north­west­ern Pak­istan in two sui­cide bomb­ings, one tar­get­ing judges in Pe­shawar, the pro­vin­cial cap­i­tal of the north­west­ern Khy­ber-Pakhtunkhwa prov­ince. On Mon­day, at least 13 peo­ple were killed in La­hore, in the east, when mil­i­tants tar­geted a protest.

The bomb­ing Thurs­day evening tar­geted the shrine of Lal Shah­baz Qa­lan­dar, a pop­u­lar Sufi saint, in Se­hwan, a city in Jamshoro dis­trict of the south­ern Sindh prov­ince. A large num­ber of peo­ple had been per­form­ing a spir­i­tual, de­vo­tional dance when the bomber struck in the court­yard, of­fi­cials said, turn­ing a place of spir­i­tual reverie into a spec­ta­cle of blood and body parts.

The re­mote­ness of the re­gion added to the dif­fi­cul­ties faced by the sur­vivors and emer­gency re­spon­ders. The near­est big city is about 90 miles away.

Khadim Hus­sain Rind, a se­nior pro­vin­cial po­lice of­fi­cer, said more than two dozen po­lice of­fi­cials had been dep­u­tized for se­cu­rity at the event and that closed-cir­cuit cam­eras had been in­stalled for sur­veil­lance of the shrine.

“How­ever, it is very dif­fi­cult to stop a sui­cide bomber in a big crowd,” Rind told me­dia out­lets.

Prime Min­is­ter Nawaz Sharif con­demned the bomb­ing as an as­sault on a “pro­gres­sive in­clu­sive fu­ture of Pak­istan.”

Sufi shrines and mosques have been tar­geted in the past by Tal­iban mil­i­tants, who view Sufi Is­lam as con­trary to their be­liefs.

“The past few days have been hard, and my heart is with the vic­tims,” the prime min­is­ter said in the state­ment. “But we can’t let these events di­vide us, or scare us. We must stand united in this strug­gle for the Pak­istani iden­tity and univer­sal hu­man­ity.”

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