Balochistan: Almost 50 dead in shrine bombing, Sharif to visit to inaugurate 'Gwadar Port'

Security beefed up as protests expected following Sharif's visit

Balochistan: Almost 50 dead in shrine bombing, Sharif to visit to inaugurate

In the wake of bombing at a Sufi shrine in southern Pakistan's restive Balochistan province, the death toll has risen to 52, with 105 injured as Islamic State claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing attack.

In a media report, Sarfraz Bugti, Home Minister for Balochistan informed of the number of dead and injured, but said that it was not immediately clear if this was a suicide attack.

The blast hit a crowd of worshippers participating in a ceremony of dancing called dhamaal" at Dargah Shah Noorani, the shrine of the Sufi saint Shah Noorani in Khuzdar district, some 750 kilometres south of provincial capital Quetta.

Local officials informed media that worshippers were taking part in a devotional dance session, which is held daily before dusk, when the blast occurred. Reportedly, rescuers were scrambling to reach the shrine, which is located in a remote, mountainous region with limited medical facilities. Authorities have dispatched ambulances and medical workers from Karachi, a three-hour drive from the blast site.

Lieutenant General Asim Bajwa , spokesman for Pakistan Army said troops and medical teams had been dispatched but that "difficult terrain and long distance" were hampering their progress. He added in the morning that 20 ambulances and 50 soldiers were about to reach the site; while a further 45 ambulances 100 troops were also on their way, along with medical teams.

A military helicopter would attempt evacuations at night, he added, but medical teams could not access the area by plane as there were no airstrips close by.

In a report of Geo TV, Tariq Mengal, a local official told that up to 600 people were at the shrine at the time of the attack adding that many devotees travelled to the site from Karachi during weekends.

In a report of Amaq, an affiliated news agency of the Islamic State group, IS claimed responsibility of the attack. "35 dead and 95 wounded Shiite visitors in a martyrdom operation attack by the Islamic State fighter that targeted a shrine in a city in Balochistan," the agency said.

President Mamnoon Hussain and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif strongly condemned the bombing in separate statements.

"The government is determined to eliminate terrorism and extremists from the country," Hussain said in a statement expressing sympathy for the victims and their families.

A statement from Sharif's office said the prime minister called for the "best medical treatment" to be given to the wounded.

Amidst this, Balochistan expects huge protests when PM Sharif visits the province to inaugurate Gwadar Port. In anticipation of the protests by the indigenous Baloch population, a heavy security presence has been deployed to prevent any untoward incident, reports said.

The ceremony is expected to be attended by Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif, Balochistan Governor Muhammad Khan Achakzai, Chief Minister Nawab Sanaullah Zehri and Islamabad-based ambassadors of at least 15 countries.

On Saturday, a statement issued from the Prime Minister House said, "This (inauguration) is the onset of the progress that has been awaited for years. But now this journey will continue till the times to come."

It said Gwadar was nature's gift to Pakistan and Chinese friendship and cooperation had made it more valuable."We are crossing new milestone into a new era of international relations," it added.