At least 72 people were martyred Thursday when a suicide bomber attacked the crowded Sufi shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Sehwan, injuring up to 250 others, hospital and senior police officials said. The powerful blast took place inside the premises of the shrine as a dhamaal was taking place, with a large number of women and children said to be among the casualties. "At least 72 are dead," said senior police officer Shabbir Sethar, adding that the death toll was likely to rise. Faisal Edhi, the head of Edhi Foundation, confirmed the death toll. "43 men, nine women and 20 children are among the dead," he said. Meanwhile, Inspector-General Sindh Police AD Khawaja said 70 people were martyred. Deputy Inspector-General (DIG) Hyderabad Khadim Hussain Rind said as many as 250 people were injured in the explosion, the latest in a series of terrorist attacks in the country.
"Among the 250 wounded, 42 are critically injured," MS Sehwan Hospital Dr Moeen informed press. Officials confirmed the suicide bombing took place inside the complex of the shrine, with eyewitnesses saying the explosion caused people to panic and triggered a stampede inside the crowded shrine. A large number of people from different parts of the province were gathered at the shrine when the blast took place. Devotees throng to the shrine of the revered Sufi saint every Thursday to participate in a dhamaal and prayers. According to reports, the explosion occured after devotees had gathered inside the premises of the shrine. A high number of casualties were feared because of the crowd gathered at the shrine. Terrorist organisation Daesh has claimed responsibility of the attack. Hours after the bombing, the ISPR announced the closure of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border with immediate effect due to security reasons.
Nation's blood to be revenged immediately: COAS
In a statement issued shortly after the terrorist attack, Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa appealed to the nation to stay calm. "Your security forces shall not allow hostile powers to succeed. We stand for our nation," he said in a statement tweeted out by DG ISPR Major General Asif Ghafoor. "Each drop of nation's blood shall be revenged, and revenged immediately. No more restraint for anyone," said the Army chief.
Lack of medical facilities
Sehwan is located in Jamshoro district which is Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah's constituency. The area is located far from any hospital, with the nearest medical complex located 40 to 50 kilometres from the site of the blast. Speaking to Geo News, the provincial chief minister accepted the lack of adequate medical facilities in Sehwan, but said that the government had ordered ambulances to move from the nearby Dadu and Hyderabad areas. "Our first priority is giving medical treatment to injured as soon as possible. We have moved ambulances from Dadu and Hyderabad. We do not have any helicopters that can fly at night, but we are doing the best we can," he said. "I am trying to go to Sehwan and personally monitor the situation there," he added. Governor Sindh Muhammad Zubair condemned the cowardly attack saying it is a part of recent wave of attacks. "We will fight back these attacks the way we have fought in the past," he said. The governor said all efforts being made to rescue as much affectees as could be. "We are in touch with the provincial government about transporting the wounded to hospitals." Sehwan Sharif lies at a distance of 284.4km (approximately four hours and 43 mins) from Karachi. The distance from Nawabshah to Sehwan is 95.4km, which takes around one hour and 24 mins to travel, while it takes 50 minutes, or 49 kilometres, to travel to Dadu. Sehwan to Jamshoro takes around one hour 47 minutes, having a distance of 134.3km in between.
Symbol of peace and tolerance
The shrine of Sufi saint Lal Shahbaz Qalandar, a place welcome to all regardless of their creed, caste or greed, was built in 1356 in honour of one of Sindh’s most revered poet, philosopher and Sufi saint. It is believed that the saint, originally from Persia, resided in Sindh during the 13th century. Lal Shahbaz Qalandar or ‘Laal Saeen’ (as known to his followers) preached peace and tolerance and because of this people from all walks of life come every year to attend the saint’s Urs, which is held from 18 to 20 Shaban. Terrorists have targeted shrines of Sufi saints in the past. In November, at least 52 people were killed and more than 100 got injured in a suicide blast in Shah Noorani shrine near Hub in Balochistan's Lasbella district. Additional Deputy Commissioner Lasbella Tariq Mengal had said that 500 to 600 people were in the shrine at the time of the blast.