52 killed in suicide attack on Balochistan shrine

Updated November 13, 2016

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HUB: Rescue workers and volunteers shift a victim of the suicide attack at the Shah Noorani shrine from an ambulance to a stretcher at a hospital here on Saturday night.—AP
HUB: Rescue workers and volunteers shift a victim of the suicide attack at the Shah Noorani shrine from an ambulance to a stretcher at a hospital here on Saturday night.—AP

QUETTA/KHUZDAR: At least 52 people were killed and over 100 others wounded when a teenage suicide bomber blew himself up in a packed-to-capacity courtyard of the Shah Noorani shrine in a remote mountainous region of Khuzdar district on Saturday evening, officials said.

According to an AFP report, the militant Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack.

The caretaker of the Shah Noorani shrine, Nawaz Ali, said that between 1,000 and 1,500 visitors came to the shrine every Saturday where traditional sufi dance was held in the evening.

An FC soldier stands guard next to injured blast victim awaiting treatment in an ambulance at a hospital in Hub. -AFP
An FC soldier stands guard next to injured blast victim awaiting treatment in an ambulance at a hospital in Hub. -AFP

Area Tehsildar Javed Iqbal said that on Saturday over 1,000 people, who reached from all across the country, particularly Karachi which is at a distance of 250 kilometres, were present on the premises of the shrine and many devotees were performing the traditional dhamaal in the courtyard when the blast took place.

TV footage showed blood, human flesh, debris and shoes scattered all around the site of the blast.

Sunny, who went to the shrine along with his 40 relatives, said that the blast took place as soon as the muezzin began calling for Maghrib prayer.

Eyewitnes said he was watching the dhamaal when the bomb struck.

“God has saved my mother,” said the young man at the Hub hospital.

Kalat Commissioner Mohammad Hashim Ghalzai said that according to preliminary information it was a suicide blast carried out by a teenage boy, who “blew himself up after reaching the centre of the people participating in dhamaal”.

In a remote area where mobile phones do not work, the initial rescue operation was launched on a self-help basis by devotees. Levies personnel and area people shifted the dead and wounded to the nearest hospital, which is in Hub, in their own vehicles.

Doctors at the Jam Ghulam Qadir Civil Hospital, Hub, said that in addition to over 100 wounded, at least 40 people, women and children included, were brought dead to the hospital.

Till late in the night, 12 bodies were brought to the Civil Hospital Karachi.

Because of scarce resources in Hub, around 50 ambulances of different charities and a team of doctors with necessary medicines were dispatched from Karachi to Shah Noorani to bring the critically wounded patients.

The Inter-Services Public Relations said that Chief of Army Staff Gen Raheel Sharif also ordered his troops and medical teams to reach the scene from Karachi and Khuzdar to evacuate the victims and treat them on the spot. All army-run hospitals in Karachi were also put on alert.

A state of emergency was declared in all government hospitals in Karachi and doctors and paramedics called for the treatment of the wounded.

Map showing location of shrine. ─ Dawn GIS
Map showing location of shrine. ─ Dawn GIS

Balochistan Home Minister Mir Sarfaraz Bugti said that the provincial government had no helicopter but it was focused on the rescue operation.

“According to confirmed reports provided to me by the law enforcement agencies, 43 people have been killed and several others injured in the Shah Norani blast,” he said.

Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan directed the authorities to immediately provide Cessna aircraft to the Frontier Corps to transport the wounded to Karachi at the earliest.

Balochistan Chief Minister Nawab Sanaullah Zehri, who was in Gwadar, strongly condemned the incident and said: “We are not afraid of acts of terror. We will continue our actions against terrorists.”

National Party president Mir Hasil Khan Bizenjo, who is also the federal minister for ports and shipping, said that the Shah Noorani carnage might be the reaction of the recent killing of the chief of a banned militant organisation, Jundullah, in Hub.

“The Shah Norani blast could be linked with sectarianism and not with the China-Pak Economic Corridor,” he said.

Following the Shah Noorani blast, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah directed the provincial police chief to beef up security for the urs of Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai scheduled to begin from Monday.

Army rescue teams reach Shah Noorani

Fifty soldiers and two medical teams reached the scene in the night. The ISPR chief Lt Gen Asim Bajwa said that the teams would treat and evacuate the wounded.

He said that helicopters had been dispatched from Quetta to the place of the incident and they would try to land there despite darkness.

He said that evacuation through aircraft was not possible since the area had no landing strip.

The ISPR chief said that it took more time to reach the scene due to difficult terrain and long distance. However, another 100 soldiers and four medical teams with 45 ambulances were heading towards Shah Noorani, he said in a series of tweets.

Published in Dawn, November 13th, 2016