Quetta - At least 20 people were killed while 26 others suffered serious wounds when a suicide bomber blew himself up at the entrance of Dargah Pir Rakhel Shah in Jhal Magsi district of Balochistan on Thursday.

The bomber struck the Shia shrine packed with worshippers in a remote village of the district in an apparent sectarian attack. The attacker detonated his explosives vest when he was stopped for a routine search by a police officer guarding the shrine about 400 kilometres east of Quetta.

The Islamic State Khorasan Province - the Middle Eastern group’s affiliate in Afghanistan and Pakistan - has since released a statement claiming the attack, according to the US-based monitoring group SITE.

Anwarul Haq Kakar, spokesman for the Balochistan government, said the death toll could rise as some of the wounded were in critical condition.

SSP Jhal Magsi Muhammad Iqbal said five children, a woman and one police officer were among those 20 people killed in the bombing. He said they found body parts of the attacker and investigators were trying to determine who was behind the bombing.

Balochistan Home Minister Sarfraz Bugti said “terrorists have shown their inhumaneness by attacking innocent civilians” at the shrine.

“It was a suicide hit which went off at the gate of Dargah in Jhal Magsi,” confirmed Dr Muhammad Akbar Harifal, Balochistan home secretary, to The Nation.

He said an assistant sub-inspector of police (ASP), a cop and three children were also among the fatalities.

SSP Iqbal said that the suicide bomber blew himself up at a time when Urs celebrations were underway at the shrine. He said the shrine had been completely cleared.

Eyewitnesses recounted horrifying scenes of the blast site, saying blood-stained bodies were lying on the floor.

A large number of people were present at the shrine to pay their respects and were performing dhamaal, a devotional dance, after evening prayers.

The security forces and rescue teams rushed immediately to the Dargah and shifted the dead and wounded to a nearby hospital.

Most of the critically injured victims were referred to Quetta, Larkana and other district hospitals due to inadequate facilities at the local hospital.

In order to cope with the emergency properly, Balochistan Health Minister Mir Rehmat Saleh Baloch put hospitals of Sibi, Dera Murad Jamali, Dera Allahyar and Jhal Magsi on high alert.

It is worth mentioning that Dargah Fatehpur was also targeted by a suicide bomber in 2005, in which 60 people had died while 100 others were wounded.

“So far 18 casualties and 26 injured of the Dargah blast have been shifted to Jhal Magsi Civil Hospital,” Medical Superintendent Dr Rukhsana Magsi told The Nation.

She added three children were among the casualties, while two females had also sustained wounds in the blast.

Balochitan home secretary said that 14 wounded were serious who would be airlifted to Quetta and Larkana for best treatment.

Dr Akbar Harifal added that 13 patients had received minor wounds and most of them were discharged immediately after first aid.

“The blast took place at the shrine at 5:50 PM,” Deputy Commissioner Jhal Magsi, Assadullah Kakar said in a press note.

Balochistan Chief Minister Nawab Sanaullah Zehri, Speaker Balochistan Assembly Raheela Hamid Khan Durrani and political parties have severely condemned the blast in Jhal Magsi Dargah, claiming scores of precious lives.

Atif Ali Shah, the custodian of the shrine, told reporters that had the attacker managed to enter the shrine, there would have been many more casualties. The police officer who stopped the bomber and other guards who rushed to the scene “saved many lives,” he said.

Hundreds of devotees were present at the shrine for a monthly gathering when the bomber hit. Local TV footage showed people crying for help in the immediate aftermath of the attack.

 

 

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