An ISIS suicide bomber has carried out a terrorist attack inside a popular shrine in Sehwan, Sindh Province, in Southern Pakistan, killing at least 80 people and wounding hundreds of others.
The suicide bomber entered the Hazrat Lal Shahbaz Qalandar shrine through its Golden Gate and blew himself up amid devotees performing “dhamaal“ (a mystic dance), Pakistan Today reported.
It is noted that every Thursday, large crowds of worshippers go to the shrine in order to attend the dhamaal.
Initial reports said that at least 20 women and 9 children were among the victims.
Surge in Violence
Thursday’s terrorist attack is Pakistan’s deadliest in the past two years, with initial reports putting the number of those wounded at 250, many of whom were in critical condition, according to information from the government of Pakistan’s Sindh Province.
Responsibility for the bombing was claimed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the Middle East-based terrorist organization which has recently established presence in both Pakistan and Afghanistan.
In a statement released by its Aamaq news agency, ISIS said it had attacked a “Shiite gathering.”
The terrorist group is made up of Sunni extremists who view Shiites as renegades, while Sufi shrines are seen as idolatry.
ISIS has already targeted Shiites in both Pakistan and Afghanistan in previous terrorist attacks.
The Pakistani military’s Chief of Staff Gen. Qamar Bajwa reacted to the attack by promising swift and efficient vengeance.
“Each drop of the nation’s blood shall be avenged, and avenged immediately. No more restraint for anyone,” army chief Bajwa declared in a statement.
“Security forces shall not allow hostile powers to succeed, we stand for our nation,” he added urging Pakistan to remain calm.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif also promised that the country’s security forced would capture the perpetrators behind the terrorist attack at the Hazrat Lal Shahbaz Qalandar shrine in Sehwan.
“An attack on one of us, is an attack on all. The attack on the shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar represents an attack on the progressive, inclusive future of Pakistan; one where every man woman and child is entitled to life, liberty and property in the pursuit of happiness no matter their religion,“ Sharif said in a statement.
The terrorist attack at the Sufi shrine in Sehwan, Sindh province has been Pakistan’s deadliest since Dec. 16, 2014, when terrorists targeted an army-run school in Peshawar, killing a total of 154 people, mostly schoolchildren.
Thursday’s bloody bombing came after on Wednesday two suicide bombings in Northwest Pakistan killed 6 people, and on Monday, a suicide bombing killed 14 people and injured 87 others in the Pakistani city of Lahore.
Responsibility for these attacks has been claimed by a Taliban faction called Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, or Freedom Movement, Pakistan’s government has been fighting the Taliban and other terrorist groups for over a decade, including through military offensives against terrorist bases in the tribal areas at its border with Afghanistan.
Crackdown, Afghanistan Summoned
Following the bloody terrorist attack at the Sufi shrine in Sehwan, Pakistan’s authorities started a crackdown against radical militants killing dozens of them, including 18 in the Sindh Province where the attack occurred, and 13 in Northeast Pakistan, Pakistan Today reported citing government officials.
Pakistan’s government summoned officials from the Embassy of Afghanistan in Islamabad, protesting that Afghan territory was being used as a base for militant extremists.
The Afghan diplomats were also given a list of 76 top-ranking terrorists identified as hiding in Afghanistan, with Pakistan demanding that they be handed over for trial.
Meanwhile, Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani condemned the attack against the Sufi shrine in Sehwan, saying: “Terrorists once again proved that they have no respect for Islamic values.”