HUB: At least 62 people were killed and more than 100 others were wounded when suicide bomber ripped through the crowded Shah Noorani Shrine in Balochistan on Saturday evening, police said.
The blast hit a crowd of worshippers participating in a ceremony at the shrine of Sufi saint Shah Noorani in Khuzdar district, some 760 kilometres (472 miles) south of provincial capital Quetta.
The death toll is feared to go up as rescuers are struggling to reach the shrine which is located in a remote area. Children and women are among the victims.
Balochistan Home Minister Sarfraz Bugti confirmed the death of 52 people including women and children.
According to an eyewitnesses, the blast took place during dhamal, a devotional dance session, which is held daily before dusk, when the blast occurred. He said that some 500 people were present inside the shrine when the blast took place.
Rangers are taking a convoy of medical workers from Karachi, a three-hour drive from the blast site.
- IS claim responsibility -
Pakistan Army spokesman Lieutenant General Asim Bajwa said troops and medical teams had been dispatched but that "difficult terrain and long distance" were hampering their progress.
Bajwa said 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 their were no air strips close by.
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 with 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.
Up to 600 people were at the shrine at the time of the attack, according to local official Tariq Mengal, who told Geo TV that many devotees travelled to the site from Karachi during weekends.
The Islamic State (IS) group claimed responsibility for the attack via Amaq, its affiliated news agency.
"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.
The bombing follows the killing of Amjad Sabri, a renowned Sufi singer, by two gunmen in Karachi in June.
Some observers have said that Sabri may have been assassinated because he was a high-profile Sufi.
Sufism, a mystic Islamic order that believes in living saints, worships through music, and is viewed as heretical by some hardline groups including the Taliban.
Local militants claimed to have worked with the Islamic State group to attack a police academy in Balochistan last month, killing 61 people in the deadliest assault on a security installation in Pakistan's history.
In August, a suicide bombing at a Quetta hospital claimed by the Islamic State group and a faction of the Pakistani Taliban killed 73 people. SAMAA/AFP