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THE floor of the shrine is strewn with debris as security personnel gather at the place after the blast on Thursday. —Photo by Yousuf Nagori
THE floor of the shrine is strewn with debris as security personnel gather at the place after the blast on Thursday. —Photo by Yousuf Nagori

• Tenth militant attack over past five days across Pakistan

• Woman suicide bomber may be involved in shrine incident, says official

• IS claims responsibility

DADU: The current wave of terrorism sweeping the country took a turn for the worse on Thursday when a suspected woman suicide attacker set off explosives at the shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar, leaving at least 76 devotees dead and over 250 injured.

Images of the shrine showed blood smeared on the white floor, with debris and shoes scattered around.

Survivors and locals, many in tears, were helping the blood-soaked wounded on to stretchers, while at Sehwan’s overcrowded hospital the injured were being treated on floors and in corridors.

“We were there for the love of our saint, for the worship of Allah,” a wailing woman told the Dawn News television channel outside the shrine, her headscarf streaked in blood. “Who would hurt us when we were there for devotion?”

Preliminary investigation suggested it was an incident of suicide bombing, Dadu SSP Shabbir Ahmed Sethar said.

A witness said the suicide bomber entered the shrine through the Golden Gate and shortly afterwards reached the Dhamal Court where a powerful explosion occurred.

Hyderabad DIG Khadim Hussain Rind said the explosion occurred when devotees were performing the devotional dance dhamal with a huge crowd watching them.

The attack might have been carried out by a female suicide bomber, said Jamshoro Deputy Commissioner Munawar Mahesar.

The militant Islamic State (IS) group claimed responsibility for the attack, reports AFP. “An IS suicide bomber set off his explosive vest against a Shia gathering at Lal Shahbaz Qalandar shrine in Sehwan,” said the Amaq propaganda agency linked to the group.

“We have counted 76 people dead and moved the bodies to different hospitals and health facilities,” said Faisal Edhi of Edhi Foundation. “The injured are more than 200 and most of them have serious injuries. All the injured have been shifted to hospitals in Hyderabad, Dadu, Nawabshah and Jamshoro.”

This 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.

Dr Moeenuddin Siddiqui, Medical Superintendent of Sehwan Taluka Hospital, said they had received 70 bodies, including those of women and children, and 254 injured — 30 to 40 of them in critical condition.

Some of the injured were shifted to hospitals in Dadu, Nawabshah and Jamshoro.

The explosion was followed by a power breakdown at the shrine which created hindrances in rescue efforts.

Army and Rangers personnel rushed to Sehwan, cordoned off the shrine, took control of place and started patrolling road in the town.

At midnight, army helicopters started shifting the injured to Karachi and Hyderabad.

Two of the 12 injured brought to the Peoples Medical Univer­sity Hospital in Nawabshah could not survive.

Zulfiqar Memon in Nawabshah and Mohammad Hussain Khan in Hyderabad contributed to this report.

Published in Dawn, February 17th, 2017