Daesh claims Pakistan shrine attack as death toll mounts

Pakistan on Thursday closed its border with Afghanistan after the bombing of a Sufi shrine that killed at least 88. Pakistan also launched a nationwide security crackdown on militants.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

A man mourns the death of a relative killed in Thursday's suicide attack on the Lal Shahbaz Qalandar shrine in southern Sindh province, Pakistan, February 17, 2017.

The death toll from a suicide attack on a shrine in southern Pakistan has risen to at least 88.

Daesh claimed responsibility for Thursday's attack on the famed Lal Shahbaz Qalandar shrine in Sindh province.

The terrorist organisation has a small but increasingly prominent presence in Pakistan.

At least 20 women and nine children were among the dead, and around 150 others were wounded in the explosion targeting the famous Sufi shrine in the town of Sehwan Sharif.

The attack was one of the deadliest in a new wave of bombings across the South Asian nation this week that has killed more than 100 people.

TRT World’s Nafisa Latic has more on the bombing and its aftermath.

Crackdown against militants

Pakistan has launched a security crackdown in the wake of the shrine attack. Officials on Friday said security forces killed at least 39 suspected militants in the ongoing nationwide sweep, with another 47 suspects arrested.

The violence in the past week has shattered a period of improving security, underscoring how militants still undermine stability in the nuclear-armed country of 190 million people.

The country's powerful military has cracked down on insurgent groups in recent years, leading to a sharp drop in militant violence. On Thursday, army chief Qamar Bajwa vowed a swift and decisive response.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif also condemned the bombing, decrying the attack on the Sufi shrine.

"The past few days have been hard, and my heart is with the victims," Sharif said.

But we can't let these events divide us, or scare us. We must stand united in this struggle for the Pakistani identity, and universal humanity.

An ancient mystic branch of Islam, Sufism has been practised in Pakistan for centuries.

Lal Shahbaz Qalander is Pakistan's most revered Sufi shrine, dedicated to a 13th-century "saint" whose spirit is invoked by devotees in ecstatic dancing and singing rituals.

Afghanistan border closed

In a related move, Pakistan on Thursday closed its border with Afghanistan.

Military authorities summoned Afghanistan embassy officials to their headquarters in Rawalpindi to protest terrorist attacks launched on Pakistan from Afghanistan.

Pakistan and Afghanistan regularly trade accusations of each side harbouring militants, who carry out attacks on the territory of the other side.

TRT World spoke to Lahore-based journalist Hamza Ameer for an update on the border closure.

TRTWorld and agencies