A powerful bomb tore through a busy Shiite mosque in southern Pakistan Friday, killing close to 60 people in the country’s deadliest sectarian attack in nearly two years.
The blast hit a Shia mosque during Friday prayers at Karbala Maula Imambargah in Lakhi Dar area in Shikarpur, Sindh province, around 470km from Karachi. Jundullah, a militant organization affiliated to the Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility for the attack.
The attack came on the day PM Nawaz Sharif arrived in the Karachi and announced that his government would deal with terrorists severely. Sharif also told a gathering of businessmen that the government was winning the war against militants and that extremism would be eliminated from the country shortly
Hundreds of people rushed to the scene after the blast to try to dig out survivors trapped under the roof of the mosque, which collapsed in the explosion, witness Zahid Noon said.
Television footage of the aftermath showed chaotic rescue scenes as people piled the wounded into cars, motorbikes and rickshaws to take them for treatment. “The area is scattered with blood and flesh and it smells of burnt meat, people are screaming at each other... it is chaos,” Noon told AFP.
An official with a national Shiite organisation, Rahat Kazmi, told AFP that up to 400 people were worshipping in the mosque when the blast struck.
The Majlis Wahdatul Muslimeen (MWM), a body representing the Shia community, announced three days of mourning. Allama Mohammed Amin Shaheedi of the MWM said that the incident was a failure of the government.
This was the second major attack on a Shia mosque this year. The Imambargah Aun Mohammad Rizvi in Rawalpindi was attacked earlier this year.
Pakistan has suffered a rising tide of sectarian violence in recent years, most of it perpetrated by hardline Sunni Muslim groups against minority Shiite Muslims, who make up around one in five of the population.