Islamic State suicide bombing at Pakistan shrine kills 75
An Islamic State suicide bomber struck inside a famed shrine in southern Pakistan yesterday, killing at least 75 people in the deadliest attack in the country in more than two years.
The bomber entered the main hall of the shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Sehwan and detonated his payload amid dozens of worshippers, according to three security officials, who said at least 20 women and nine children were among the dead.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to brief reporters. Fazal Palejo, a senior health official in Sindh province, confirmed the toll.
The Islamic State group claimed the attack in a statement circulated by its Aamaq news agency, saying it had targeted a "Shiite gathering". The Sunni extremist group views Shiites as apostates and has targeted Pakistan's Shiite minority in the past. It views Sufi shrines like the one targeted yesterday as a form of idolatry.
Raja Somro, who witnessed the attack, told a local TV network that hundreds of people were performing a spiritual dance known as the Dhamal when the bomber struck.
"I saw bodies everywhere. I saw bodies of women and children," he said.
Local TV showed graphic footage of the aftermath of the blast, with wounded worshippers crying out for help and the floors covered with shoes, blood and body parts. Women cried and beat their chests in grief.
Ghazanfar Shah, the custodian of the site, said security was lax at the shrine, which is entered through two gold-plated doors.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif vowed that security forces would track down the perpetrators of the attack, according to Pakistani state TV.
"Each drop of the nation's blood shall be avenged, and avenged immediately," Pakistan's army chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, said in a statement. "No more restraint for anyone."