Pakistan closed two of its borders with Afghanistan and asked Kabul to hand over 76 “terrorists” following a suicide attack at a crowded Sufi shrine that killed at least 75 people.
Thursday’s attack, the deadliest in Pakistan since 2014, took place during a ritual at the shrine in Sehwan in the southern Sindh province, wounding hundreds.
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) group claimed responsibility for the blast via its Amaq propaganda website.
The shrine, built in 1356, is by the tomb of Syed Muhammad Usman Marwandi, the Sufi philosopher poet better known as Lal Shahbaz Qalandar, one of Pakistan’s most venerated saints.
Pakistan-Afghanistan Border closed with immediate effects till further orders due to security reasons.
— Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor (@OfficialDGISPR) February 16, 2017
Afg Embassy officials called in GHQ. Given list of 76 Ts hiding in Afg. Asked to take immediate action / be handed over to Pakistan.
— Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor (@OfficialDGISPR) February 17, 2017
Thursday’s blast is the latest in a series of attacks across Pakistan since Monday, when 13 people were killed in a suicide bombing at a rally in the eastern city of Lahore.
That attack was followed on Wednesday by a suicide bombing at a government office in the Mohmand tribal area and a suicide attack on government employees in Peshawar, killing six people.
Two police officers were killed on Tuesday while trying to defuse a bomb in the Balochistan provincial capital of Quetta.
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 province.
Al Jazeera’s Kamal Hyder said the second major border crossing at Chaman, which leads to Kandahar in Afghanistan from the Pakistani city of Quetta, was closed on Friday after the Torkham border was sealed off late on Thursday.
In Sehwan, police cordoned off the shrine early on Friday as forensic investigators arrived. The 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 Moeen Uddin 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.
The Sindh provincial 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 hospital around 70km from the shrine.
Pakistan has closed border w Afghanistan after Sehwan attack. Was at Torkham y’day, where there are a slew of new border control measures. pic.twitter.com/WrKMuCGofp
— Asad Hashim (@AsadHashim) February 17, 2017
The medical facilities in Sehwan are basic, and many of the injured were flown to Karachi and other major towns of Sindh in military planes and helicopters.
On Thursday, Sikandar Mandhro, Sindh’s health minister, told Al Jazeera: “There was a huge crowd gathered there for the [religious ceremony] at the shrine, and there was a very big explosion.
“The medical facilities at Sehwan are not equipped to deal with a very big emergency, so our first priority right now is to get help to the wounded.”
Thursday’s attack was the deadliest in Pakistan since December 2014, when fighters assaulted a school in Peshawar, killing 154 people, mostly school children.
|People arriving at the scene of the blast on Friday [Wali Muhammed/Al Jazeera]|
|Thursday’s attack was the deadliest in Pakistan since 2014 [Wali Muhammed/Al Jazeera]|
Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies