Volunteers push a stretcher carrying an injured blast victim to a hospital in Multan following a suicide bomb attacks on the 13th century shrine Sufi saint Ahmed Sultan, popularly known as Sakhi Sarwar, in Dera Ghazi Khan district. -AFP Photo

ISLAMABAD: A double suicide bomb attack outside a shrine in the central Pakistani province of Punjab on Sunday killed 41 people, a police officer told AFP from the scene of the blasts.

The bombers struck outside the shrine of the 13th century Sufi saint Ahmed Sultan, popularly known as Sakhi Sarwar, in Dera Ghazi Khan district.

Hundreds of worshippers had gathered at the shrine for a religious ceremony when the attacks took place.

“We have recovered 41 bodies so far,” said the officer, Zahid Hussain Shah, adding that more than 70 were wounded.

“Both were suicide attackers, they came on foot and blew themselves up when police on duty stopped them.”

Many of those wounded in the attacks were in a serious condition, he said, and the injured have been taken to the Dera Ghazi Khan hospital for treatment.

Regional police chief Ahmed Mubarak confirmed two suicide bombers tried to enter the shrine but failed and blew themselves up.

Police officer Shah told AFP that two accomplices had been arrested.

The detainees included a suspected suicide bomber identified as Fida Hussain, a 15- to 16-year-old Afghan refugee from Pakistan's tribal area, he said.

A police official, requesting anonymity, said the shrine had received threats from unidentified militants.

Sufi worshippers, who follow a mystical strain of Islam, have increasingly been the target of bloody attacks by militants in Pakistan.

No group has immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks, but Sunni extremists, including the Taliban, are vehemently opposed to the Sufi strand of Islam and consider their shrines to be idolatrous.

Sunday's attack is the fifth in as many days.

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