The attack was the country’s deadliest in years: a suicide bomber detonated a bomb among crowds gathered for the busiest day of the week at the shrine to Sufi saint Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Sehwan, a town in the southern Sindh province.
Amaq, a news agency affiliated to Isis, claimed the jihadi group had carried out Thursday’s attack. It was the latest such attack on devotees of Sufism, a mystical and generally moderate form of Islam despised by radical fundamentalists.
“The explosion took place when a large number of people were inside the shrine boundary,” a local police officer said. “A huge number of people come to the shrine every Thursday to take part in ritual dances and prayers. It is not possible to ensure the security of every person coming and going.”
Sughra Bibi, a 45-year-old woman taken to hospital with shrapnel wounds to her stomach, said she was near the front of the crowd watching the devotional dancing when the explosion occurred. “The terrorists are targeting us just because they hate our shrines,” she said. “They attacked another shrine a couple of months ago. But we will never give up our faith.”
Tanveer Ali, a local man whose wife and son were injured, said those responsible had sinned against Islam by targeting civilians. “The terrorists will have to answer for this on the day of judgment,” he said.
Another witness, Raja Somro, inside the shrine at the time of the attack, told a local television network that hundreds of people were performing their spiritual dance called dhamal when the attacker struck at the shrine. “I saw bodies everywhere. I saw bodies of women and children,” he said. Local television channels aired footage of worshippers crying for help after the blast.
On Friday authorities raised the death toll to 88 after some of the critically wounded died. The Sindh provincial health department said a total of 343 people were wounded in the attack. Most were discharged after treatment but 76 are still in hospital, the department said.