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A powerful bomb blast at a Sufi shrine killed at least 10 and wounded 60 others Saturday in southwestern Baluchistan province, officials said. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack. “Thirty five Shiites have been killed and 95 wounded,” said a statement on the IS-affiliated Aamaq news agency.
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Sarfaraz Bugti, home minister for Baluchistan province, confirmed that the blast occurred with hundreds in attendance at the shrine of Sufi saint Shah Bilal Noorani. He said rescue efforts were ongoing. But Bugti talking to local Geo television refused to give any details as how many people were killed and wounded citing lack of cellular services in the affected area.
“Our attention at present is on the rescue efforts. Once it is completed we will release the official death toll, which could be high.”
The blast comes ahead of the prime minister’s pre-planned trip to the province on Sunday, where he will see off the first Chinese shipping consignment to Africa from Gwadar port.
Muhammad Azeem Mengal, a local police officer, said at least ten people were killed and 60 others wounded. He added that the nature of the blast was being investigated and that the death toll could dramatically increase.
Abdul Hakim Lasi, an official with the Edhi Foundations rescue service that arrived at the scene, suggests more than 30 people may have been killed. Lasi said over a dozen ambulances of the welfare network carried away the wounded from the shrine in the mountainous terrain of Khuzdar district, some 350 kilometers south of provincial capital Quetta. He said the area where blast occurred lacks health and communication services. He added that many were also wounded in a stampede after the blast. Worshippers were in the throes of their devotional “dhamal” dance when the blast occurred, he said.
Anwarul Haq, the spokesman for the Baluchistan government, told local television stations that rescue efforts have been hindered because of the dark and narrow mountainous roads. Haq said the wounded, including women and children, were being taken to hospitals in the neighboring Lasbela district. He said the critically wounded would be taken farther to Karachi for better medical care. He said emergency has been declared at hospitals to cater the possible high number of casualties.
Last month IS claimed responsibility for an attack in which three Islamic militants stormed a police academy in the southwestern city of Quetta, killing 61 people, mostly cadets and trainees. Later, the banned sectarian Lashkar-e-Jhangvi group claimed joint responsibility.
Lashker-e-Jhangvi, mostly involved in attacks on the minority Shiite sect, has previously taken credit for several attacks in Baluchistan.
For over a decade, the Baluchistan province has been the scene of a low-intensity insurgency by nationalist and separatist groups demanding a bigger share of regional resources.