Over 25 killed in crackdown after attack on Lal Shahbaz Qalandar shrine

A nationwide security crackdown was launched Friday, officials said, after a bomb ripped through a crowded shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Sehwan, killing at least 80 people including 20 children and wounding hundreds.

The militant Islamic State group (IS) claimed the attack, which came after a series of bloody extremist assaults this week.

“Both the federal and provincial law enforcement authorities and police started a crackdown across the country before dawn, and scores of suspects have been arrested from different cities,” a government official speaking on condition of anonymity told AFP.

He said the sweeping operation will continue for the coming days.

The Pakistan Army launched a search and strike operation in Shalman area of Khyber Agency near the Pak-Afghan border, using heavy artillery, security sources said. Four alleged terrorists have been killed in the Lower Orakzai tehsil of the Orakzai Agency during the operation, the sources said.

According to security officials, the Ghulam Khan check-post on the Pak-Afghan border in South Waziristan has been sealed as an operation is underway in the region.

A statement from the paramilitary Rangers said at least 18 terrorists had been killed in operations in Sindh overnight, while police officials said 11 more had been killed in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Three alleged terrorists were killed during a search and strike operation in Reggi area of Peshawar. According to officials, weapons and hand-grenades were also recovered from the militants.

Soldiers standing after the suicide attack at shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar. —APP
Soldiers standing after the suicide attack at shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar. —APP

Security sources said four terrorists were killed in an exchange of fire with security forces after they attempted to attack a security check-post in Orakzai Agency. Four more were killed in Bannu during an exchange of fire.

Police cordoned off the shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar, a revered 13th century Muslim saint, early Friday, as forensic investigators arrived.

Meanwhile, the death toll from the attack rose to 80 on Friday.

Dr Moeenuddin Siddiqui, Medical Superintendent (MS) of Sehwan Taluka Hospital, said they had received 75 bodies, of which all but 13 had been identified and handed over to relatives.

Also, five victims shifted to a hospital in Nawabshah succumbed to their injuries on Friday.

According to the MS, 210 injured were brought to the hospital in Sehwan.

Lack of medical facilities

The popular shrine’s white floor was still smeared with blood, with scattered debris including shoes, shawls, and baby bottles. At least 20 children are believed to be among the dead, the head of Sehwan’s medical facility Moeenuddin Siddiqui said.

At 3:30am the shrine’s caretaker stood among the carnage and defiantly rang its bell, a daily ritual that he vowed to continue, telling AFP he will “not bow down to terrorists”.

The Sindh government announced three days of mourning as Pakistanis vented their grief and fury on social media, bemoaning the lack of medical facilities to help the wounded, with the nearest main hospital some 130 kilometres from the shrine.

The medical facilities in Sehwan are basic, and many of the injured were flown to Karachi and other major cities of Sindh in military planes and helicopters.

Pakistan had seen a dramatic improvement in security in the past two years, but multiple attacks this week have undermined the growing sense of optimism.

Condemnations pour in

Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan condemned the suicide blast and said he was shocked and saddened on the terrorist attack which targeted innocent people, including women and children.

Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan also strongly condemned the blast at Sehwan. He expressed deep sorrow over the loss of precious lives and sympathised with the bereaved families.

Chairman PPP Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari said the terrorist attack on the shrine in Sehwan was the worst form of terrorism aimed at ripping apart the Sufi fabric of unity and peace.

“This was an attack on our culture, history and civilisation. Every single individual of this land will fight against the terrorists and uproot this menace, said the PPP scion adding that the perpetrators will be brought to justice.

Resurgence in terror attacks

Pakistan seems to be experiencing a fresh resurgence in terror attacks.

Slippers of blast victims lie on the ground at the 13th century Muslim Sufi shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar. ─AFP
Slippers of blast victims lie on the ground at the 13th century Muslim Sufi shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar. ─AFP

The bombing at Qalandar’s shrine was the tenth militant attack over the past five days in the country. The fresh wave of terrorism started with an attack on a DSNG van of Samaa TV in Karachi on Sunday, leaving a media worker dead.

The next day saw a suicide attack in Lahore, killing 13 people, including two senior police officers. On the same day, a Bomb Disposal Squad commander and a policeman were killed while defusing a bomb in Quetta and two security personnel lost their lives when their vehicle hit a landmine in South Waziristan.

On Wednesday, four suicide bombers blew themselves up in Peshawar, Mohmand Agency and Charsadda in an attempt to target security forces and members of the judiciary.

On Thursday, three soldiers were killed in a bomb attack in Awaran area of Balochistan, and four policemen and a civilian were killed in an attack on a police van in Dera Ismail Khan.

Courtesy By: http://www.dawn.com

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