250 injured; ISIS claims responsibility of attack; President, Prime Minister condemn blast
At least 76 people including women and children were martyred and over 250 sustained critical injuries in a suicide attack at the shrine of Sufi Saint Hazrat Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Sehwan Sharife on Thursday, medics and police said.
Thousands of devotees from across the country arrive at the shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar every Thursday.
Police officials in Sehwan said the blast took place inside the shrine with the Assistant Superintendent of Police Rashid stating it was a suicide bombing.
The condition of more than 50 pilgrims is critical, the number of death toll could rise as there is only one small hospital in the area. However, emergency has been declared in the hospitals of Hyderabad, Dadu and Jamshoro.
Police confirmed it was a suicide attack. IG AD Khawaja revised an earlier death toll, saying that at least 72 people have been killed and many more injured.
The bomber struck inside the compound, where a large number of devotees were performing dhamal, devotional dance, sources said.
According to a police source, the bomber entered the shrine and blew himself up amid a large assembly of devotees, many of whom were there because Thursday is considered a sacred day to pray at the shrine.
Sehwan is 132 kilometres from Jamshoro and around 140 kilometers from Hyderabad.
“The incident took place outside the mazar (shrine) where Golden Gate is located,” Hyderabad Commissioner Kazi Shahid Parvez told media.
The bombing is reminiscent of a near-identical attack at Dargah Shah Noorani, in Khuzdar district of Balochistan, late last year. At least 45 people, including women and children, were killed in that attack.
An emergency has been declared in hospitals across Dadu, Sehwan and Hyderabad.
“Ambulances from Hyderabad and Jamshoro were sent to Sehwan. The town has a taluka hospital but it is not equipped with a trauma centre to deal with emergency cases,” in-charge Edhi Foundation Mairaj Ahmed said.
Eyewitnesses described gory scenes in the shrine’s compound where human body parts were seen scattered. Some bodies were also seen lying on the floor.
Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah called IG Police AD Khawaja and Hyderabad commissioner, and ordered rescue and relief operation in wake of the blast.
Local authorities have appealed the people for blood donation. Many of the injured were shifted to the hospital in rickshaws, on foot and on carts before the ambulances arrived.
Global terror group Islamic State has claimed responsibility of the attack, the group’s affiliated news agency AMAQ reported.
The injured awere shifted to Liauqat Medical College, Jamshoro and other hospitals of Dadu and Hyderabad.
A rescue worker said that at least 55 to 60 people had died and nearly 500 to 600 others injured. The victims included women, children, old and young.
Edhi Foundation chief Faisal Edhi said that all ambulances in the nearby cities were sent to Sehwan Sharif to transport the injured to hospitals.
Meanwhile, President Mamnoon Hussain and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has strongly condemned the suicide attack on Lal Shahbaz Qalandar Shrine.
“The attack on the shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar represents an attack on the progressive, inclusive future of Pakistan; one where every man, woman and child is entitled to life, liberty and property in the pursuit of happiness no matter their religion,” a statement by PM Sharif said.
“An attack on one of us, is an attack on all,” he said.
“The Sufi people predate Pakistan, and formed an important part in the struggle for it’s formation.
“Any attack on them, is a direct threat to the Pakistan of Jinnah and will be dealt as such. The past few days have been hard, and my heart is with the victims. But we can’t let these events divide us, or scare us,” he said.
“We must stand united in this struggle for the Pakistani identity, and universal humanity.”
“We have faced tougher circumstances, and still persevered. I will do everything in my power to protect this country, and what it represents.” Meanwhile, Chief of the Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa on Thursday vowed to avenge each drop of nation’s blood immediately.
“Each drop of nation’s blood shall be revenged, and revenged immediately,” said the army chief in a statement shortly after a suicide bomber killed at least 72 people at Lal Shahbaz Qalandar blast in Sehwan Sharif. “No more restraint for anyone,” he said and appealed to the nation to stay calm. “Your security forces shall not allow hostile powers to succeed. We stand for our nation,” he said.
He further said that the recent terrorist acts are being executed on directions from hostile powers and from sanctuaries in Afghanistan. “We shall defend and respond,” he added.
Meanwhile, Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa on Thursday condemned the blast at shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar and expressed grief over the loss of lives.
While condoling the deaths in the blast, he ordered quick rescue services and medical aid for them, Inter-Services Public Relations sources said.
It was reported that Pakistan Army and Rangers troops were on their way to the Lal Shahbaz Qalandar shrine to help the victims.
Preparations have been carried out at Hyderabad CMH for treatment and medical aid of injured people.
Moreover, Director General ISPR further tweeted, “Armed Forces have placed all required resources for rescue effort. Army and Rangers are doing rescue effort at site.
He said, “Air effort was being sent for quick evacuation of injured. Night flying capable heli of Navy and C 130 of PAF will do relief effort.
Meanwhile, Chief of Naval Staff has placed all Naval hospitals in Karachi on high alert and were ready to receive injured through night capable heli.