Karachi, Feb 16 (IANS) A powerful blast claimed by the Islamic State ripped through a Sufi shrine in Sehwan town of Pakistan's Sindh province on Thursday, killing at least 50 people, including women and children, and injuring scores others.
Assistant Superintendent of Police in Sehwan said a suicide bomber entered the Lal Shehbaz Qalandar shrine through its Golden gate. The attacker blew himself up after throwing a grenade, which failed to explode, he said.
The explosion took place at the spot where the "Dhamaal" Sufi ritual was being performed within the premises of the shrine.
The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack, the group's affiliated news agency AMAQ reported.
There were conflicting reports about casualties in the blast. Taluka Hospital Medical Superintendent Moinuddin Siddiqui said at least 50 bodies and scores of injured were brought to the hospital.
A stampede followed the blast as a large number of devotee, including women and children, were present in the shrine.
Contingents of police reached the shrine that is situated slightly off the Super Highway in Dadu district of Sindh. Hundreds of people gather at the Sufi saint's shrine every Thursday for religious rituals.
Police chief Jamshoro Tariq Wilayat told Dawn that initial reports suggested it was a suicide bombing in the area reserved for women in the shrine.
"It seems to be a suicide bombing according to initial information provided by Sehwan police to me and I am on way to Sehwan," Wilayat said.
An emergency has been declared in all hospitals of the area, with the injured being shifted to Liaquat Medical Complex Jamshoro and the sub-district hospital.
Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa has directed that immediate assistance be provided to civil authorities. Army contingents were dispatched along with medical personnel. Combined Military Hospital Hyderabad has also been alerted to receive casualties.
Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah said he had directed rescue teams to reach the spot of the attack.
The last attack on a Sufi shrine took place on November 12, 2016, when a suicide bomber struck the shrine of Shah Norani in Khuzdar district of Balochistan, killing at least 52 people and leaving 102 injured.
The explosion had taken place where the Dhamaal was being performed. At least 500 people were gathered at the spot to observe the ritual.