The death toll of a deadly suicide blast at a shrine in Sehwan town of Pakistan's south Sindh Province has risen to 72, local police said.
Pakistani people gather at the main gate of a shrine following a suicide blast in Sehwan town, southern Pakistan's Sindh Province, on Feb. 16, 2017. [Photo/Xinhua]
Inspector General of Sindh police A.D. Khawaja said that over 200 people were also injured in the explosion.
Faisal Edhi, head of rescue team which shifted the injured to hospitals, said the killed included 43 men, 20 children and nine women.
Rasool Bux, Senior House Officer (SHO) Police, said that the suicide bomber entered the Lal Shahbaz Qalandar shrine from crowded golden gate and blew himself up in a group of people performing Dhamal (Sufi dance) inside a compound in Sehwan, a small town located some 284 km away from the provincial capital of Karachi.
He said there were 500 to 800 people inside the shrine as Thursday evening is considered as the most sacred time to pray in the shrine and a large number of people from across the country were there to pay homage to the late saint and perform Dhamal.
Talking to local media, an injured eyewitness said that he saw the operator of the CCTV room running out of his office and after a few moments the explosion happened. "May be the CCTV operator saw the bomber in the camera and ran away for his life," he added.
Another eyewitness said they were praying inside the shrine when a loud explosion was heard and there were heaps of bodies and injured people everywhere.
The injured people have been shifted to Sehwan hospital from where the critically wounded victims were sent to hospitals in Karachi and neighboring Nawabshah district via army planes and helicopters.
In a tweet, Major General Asif Ghafoor, director general of the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the army's media wing, said army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa has directed army and paramilitary troops rangers to provide assistance to the blast victims.
He added that night vision helicopters from Pakistan navy and a C-130 plane from Pakistan Air Force have been provided to shift the injured people to hospitals in Karachi.
The navy hospital in Karachi has been put on high alert and the injured will be shifted there via night capable helicopters.
Heavy contingent of police reached at the blast site and cordoned it off for investigations shortly after the blast.
Global terror group Islamic State (IS) claimed the attack. On its Arabic AMAQ website, IS said a suicide bomber "exploded his vest in Shia shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Pakistan's south Sindh province."
This is the second time when IS claimed an attack targeting a shrine in Pakistan over the last three months.
Earlier on Nov. 12 last year, at least 52 people were killed and over 100 others injured when an IS suicide bomber blew himself up in a shrine in the country's southwest Balochistan province.
Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had condemned the suicide attack and directed departments concerned to provide best possible medical treatment to the injured people.
The country's army chief General Bajwa appealed the nation to stay calm.
"Your security forces shall not allow hostile powers to succeed. Each drop of nation's blood shall be revenged, and revenged immediately. No more restraint for anyone," Bajwa said in a statement.