80 killed, 250 injured in suicide attack at Pak shrine

Sharif, US, UN, China, India condemn; Pak Army retaliates, kills 100 militants; Islamabad seeks action against 76 ‘most wanted terrorists’

PTI
Karachi, Publish Date: Feb 18 2017 12:08AM | Updated Date: Feb 18 2017 12:08AM
80 killed, 250 injured in suicide attack at Pak shrine

Over 80 people were killed and nearly 250 others injured late last night when an “Islamic State” suicide bomber blew himself up inside the crowded shrine of revered Sufi Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Sehwan town, in a string of deadly blasts this week in Pakistan. The bomber entered the shrine through its Golden gate and blew himself up near the site where the ritual of Sufi dance 'Dhamal' was taking place.

The attacker first threw couple of grenades to cause panic and then blew himself up, police said. 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.

"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 media that the death toll from the suicide bombing has climbed to 76 while the injured were around 250.

"The toll at this moment is 76 but condition of some of the injured admitted in different hospitals is critical," Rind said.

Late evening reports said the toll had gone up to 88.

Earlier, Sehwan police station SHO Rasool Baksh told reporters that around 100 people, including women and children, have been killed in the suicide bomb attack.

The ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack on their Aamaq news agency, saying a suicide bomber had targeted a "Shiite gathering" at the shrine in Sindh.

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 were sent from Hyderabad, Jamshoro, Moro, Dadu and Nawabshah to the blast site to take care of the injured and move the bodies.

He said the shrine has been sealed and police have collected initial evidence and secured CCTV footage. "The forensic examination will be carried out at the shrine soon," he said.

Qazi said rescue operations have been completed as the Pakistan Army and Navy had sent three night flying helicopters and ambulances to shift the dead and injured.

He said the bodies are now being identified.

This is the fifth major terrorist strike in Pakistan within a week's time.    

 

PM CONDEMNS

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," he said.

"An attack on them is a direct threat to Jinnah's Pakistan and will be dealt as such," Sharif said.

Army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa vowed to avenge "every drop of blood" spilled by terrorists in Pakistan.

"Recent terrorist acts are being executed on directions from hostile powers and from sanctuaries in Afghanistan. We shall defend and respond.  "Each drop of the nation's blood shall be revenged, and revenged immediately. No more restraint for anyone," the Army Chief was quoted as saying by Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director Major General Asif Ghafoor on Twitter.

Devotees gather at the shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar, a Sufi philosopher-poet of present-day Afghanistan and Pakistan, every Thursday to participate in a dhamaal and prayers.

 

UN CONDEMNS

The United Nations on Friday condemned the terrorist attack and called for the perpetrators to be brought to justices swiftly.

"We extend our condolences to the families of the victims and to the Government and people of Pakistan, and wish a speedy recovery to the injured. We call for the perpetrators of this attack to be brought to justices swiftly," said a statement issued by the Office of the Spokesman for the UN Secretary-General.

The statement said that the UN supports the government of Pakistan in its fight against terrorism in full respect of international and human rights norms.

 

US CONDEMNS

The US has condemned the terrorist attack, saying it will continue to work with Islamabad to combat terrorism.

"We stand with the people of Pakistan in their fight against terrorism and remain committed to the security of the South Asia region," Acting State Department Spokesman Mark Toner said yesterday.

"We will continue to work with the Government of Pakistan and our partners across the region to combat the threat of terrorism," he said, adding that the US condemns the attack.

"We extend our condolences to the victims and their families and wish a full recovery for all of those injured. We also offer our support to the Government of Pakistan as it works to bring the perpetrators of this crime to justice," Toner said.

He said the attack was only the latest in a series of deadly blasts that have taken place in the past week in Lahore, Balochistan and Peshawar.

Meanwhile, in a separate statement, World Bank President Jim Young Kim expressed his shock and sadness at the "senseless" terrorist attacks in Iraq and Pakistan.

“On behalf of the World Bank Group, I wish to express our shock and sadness at today's senseless attacks in Iraq and Pakistan," he said.

"We condemn violence of any kind, and we remain committed to building a more just and peaceful world. Our thoughts are with the families of the victims and with the Iraqi and Pakistani people," Kim said.

 

CHINA CONDEMNS

China also condemned the deadly attack and assured continued support to Islamabad in its efforts to combat terrorism.

China was greatly shocked by the massive casualties caused by the suicide blast yesterday in Sehwan in Sindh province, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said at a press briefing.

"We strongly condemn this terrorist attack, express our deep condolences to the victims and sincere sympathies to the injured and the bereaved," Geng said.

China opposes terrorism in all forms, he said, adding that it would continue to support Pakistan's efforts to fight against terrorism, maintain national stability and protect people's safety.

 

INDIA DEPLORES

India strongly deplored the terror attack at the shrine of Lal Shabhaz Qalandar in Pakistan in which at least 80 people were killed and over 200 injured.

"India has always condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. We strongly deplore the terrorist attack at the shrine of Lal Shabhaz Qalandar yesterday that resulted in the loss of a large number of innocent lives," External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Vikas Swarup said.

 

 PAKISTAN CLAIMS 100 MILITANTS KILLED

Pakistan Army on Friday claimed to have killed more than 100 suspected terrorists in retaliation to a Islamic State suicide bombing at a crowded Sufi shrine in Sindh province that claimed 88 lives.

The media wing of the army, ISPR, said a "sizeable" number of suspects have also been arrested since last night, when a Islamic State bomber blew himself up at the popular shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Sehwan in the southern province.

The statement did not specify where the militants were killed or about the arrests and said "details will be shared".

Pakistan Army has launched combing operations across the country, including Punjab province. "Intelligence agencies are making progress to unearth networks behind recent (terrorist) incidents," military spokesman Major Gen Asif Ghafoor said, without providing details.

Immediately after the blast, Pakistan claimed the bombing was planned in militant sanctuaries across the border in Afghanistan, threatening renewed hostilities between Kabul and Islamabad.

The army claimed it has found linkages to militant support networks operating from Afghanistan and it has closed the border due to security reasons after the bombing last night.

Pakistan Army began an operation in Shalman area near the Pakistan-Afghan border, using heavy artillery fire, reports said. The border with Afghanistan at Torkham has been shut.

"No cross-border or unauthorised entry will be allowed into Pakistan from Afghanistan," it said.

Afghan diplomats were earlier today summoned to General Headquarters in Rawalpindi by the Army, which lodged a protest over the use of Afghan soil by terrorists to carry out attacks in Pakistan.

Army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa assured the people, saying the "hostile" agenda will not be allowed to succeed "whatever it may cost".

"Army is for security of people of Pakistan against all types of threat. Nation to stay steadfast with full confidence in their security forces," he was quoted as saying in the statement. Officials said the crackdown against militants would be intensified in the coming days.

"After the string of terrorist attacks in the country in the past week, the government and military are on one page and the crackdown was ordered," a top government official said about the operations by security forces across Pakistan.

The crackdown was launched simultaneously by federal and provincial governments after at least eight terror attacks rocked Pakistan in the past week. The attacks began with a suicide bomber targeting a protest rally outside the Punjab assembly in Lahore on Monday, killing 14 people.

The same day a terrorist attack was foiled in Quetta, but two officials of the Bomb Disposal Squad were killed while defusing the bomb. Terrorists also carried out attacks in Mohmand agency and Peshawar followed by shrine blast in Sindh.

 

 ‘HAND OVER 76 MOST WANTED TERRORISTS’

In an unusual move, Pakistan Army on Friday handed over a list of 76 "most wanted" terrorists to Afghan embassy officials and demanded "immediate action" against them, amidst a spurt in terror attacks in the country.

Pakistan Prime Minister's Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz also telephoned Afghan National Security Adviser Hanif Atmar and urged him to take action against militants involved in terrorism inside Pakistan.

Aziz called the Afghan National Security Adviser after an unnamed official from the Afghan embassy was summoned to military headquarters in Rawalpindi and handed down a list of 76 "most wanted" terrorists for "immediate action" or extradition to Pakistan.

The Pakistan Foreign Office said in a statement that Aziz underlined that the government and the people of Pakistan were in a state of deep anguish and pain at the recent terrorist incidents in various parts of Pakistan resulting into loss of precious human lives.

He conveyed to the Afghan National Security Adviser that terrorist group Jamat-ul-Ahrar (JuA) was behind these barbaric acts of terrorism in Pakistan.

Director General, Inter-Services Public Relations, Major General Asif Ghafoor said that the Afghan official was summoned to lodge protest against the use of Afghan soil by terrorists to carry out attacks in Pakistan.

Afghanistan was asked to either take "immediate action" against the named terrorists or hand them over to Pakistan, he said.

The move comes two days after a senior Afghan diplomat was summoned to the Foreign Office in Islamabad to receive protest over the use of territory of his country for launching terrorist attacks in Pakistan, Dawn newspaper reported.

The Afghan diplomat was given a demarche containing details of the recent terrorist attacks and supporting information.

Pakistan army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa yesterday vowed to avenge "every drop of blood" spilled by terrorists in Pakistan.

Pakistan closed its border with Afghanistan after the shrine attack due to security concerns. PTI