ISLAMABAD: At least 75 people have been killed and more than 130 injured in a suicide bombing at the shrine of Sufi saint Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Sindh's Sehwan town on Thursday, officials confirmed.
Police confirmed it was a suicide attack. IG AD Khawaja revised an earlier death toll, saying that at least 75 people have been killed and many more injured.
The bomber struck inside the compound, where a large number of devotees were performing dhamal, devotional dance, sources said.
According to a police source, the bomber entered the shrine and blew himself up amid a large assembly of devotees, many of whom were there because Thursday is considered a sacred day to pray at the shrine.
Sehwan is 132 kilometres from Jamshoro and around 140 kilometers from Hyderabad.
"The incident took place outside the mazar (shrine) where Golden Gate is located," Hyderabad Commissioner Kazi Shahid Parvez said.
The bombing is reminiscent of a near-identical attack at Dargah Shah Noorani, in Khuzdar district of Balochistan, late last year. At least 45 people, including women and children, were killed in that attack.
An emergency has been declared in hospitals across Dadu, Sehwan and Hyderabad.
"Ambulances from Hyderabad and Jamshoro have been sent to Sehwan. The town has a taluka hospital but it is not equipped with a trauma centre to deal with emergency cases," in-charge Edhi Foundation Mairaj Ahmed said.
Navy helicopters, PAF aircraft are being dispatched for rescue operations, according to the ISPR.
Eyewitnesses described gory scenes in the shrine's compound where human body parts were seen scattered. Some bodies were also seen lying on the floor.
Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah called IG Police AD Khawaja and Hyderabad commissioner, and ordered rescue and relief operation in wake of the blast.
Army chief General Qamar Bajwa also directed the medical teams to assist in relief and rescue operation.
Meanwhile, the ISPR said the terrorist acts were being executed from sanctuaries based in Afghanistan.
"Recent terrorist acts are being executed on the directions from hostile powers and from sanctuaries in Afghanistan. We shall defend and respond," DG ISPR Major General Asif Ghafoor said in a statement.
Local authorities have appealed the people for blood donation. Many of the injured were shifted to the hospital in rickshaws, on foot and on carts before the ambulances arrived. Global terror group Islamic State claimed responsibility of the attack, the group's affiliated news agency AMAQ reported.
Pakistan People's Party (PPP) co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari has left for Karachi from Dubai. The former president will also pay a visit to the shrine.
The country has seen an upsurge in terrorist violence over the past few days, with bombers striking in Lahore, Peshawar, Mohmand Agency, and now in Sindh. Seven people were killed in two suicide attacks in Mohmand, while a bomber targeted a van carrying lower court judges in Peshawar.
Security forces have shut down the Torkham border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. "All activities on the border have been halted owing to security concerns for an indefinite period," a security official said.
Political leaders including Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan condemned the deadly attack.