A Daesh [the Arabic acronym for the Takfiri terrorist ‘ISIS/ISIL' group] suicide bomber struck inside a famed shrine in southern Pakistan on Thursday, massacring at least 75 people in the deadliest attack in the country in more than two years.
The bomber entered the main hall of the shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Sehwan and detonated his payload amid dozens of worshippers, according to three security officials, who said at least 20 women and nine children were among the dead.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief reporters. Fazal Palejo, a senior health official in Sindh province, confirmed the toll.
Soon after, Daesh claimed the attack in a statement circulated by its Aamaq news agency, saying it had targeted a "Shiite gathering."
The extremist group views Shia Muslims as apostates and has targeted Pakistan's Shiite minority in the past. It views Sufi shrines like the one targeted Thursday as a form of idolatry.
Raja Somro, who witnessed the attack, told a local TV network that hundreds of people were performing a spiritual dance known as the Dhamal when the bomber struck.
"I saw bodies everywhere. I saw bodies of women and children,'' he said.
Local TV showed graphic footage of the aftermath of the blast, with wounded worshippers crying out for help and the floors covered with shoes, blood and body parts.
Ghazanfar Shah, the custodian of the site, said security was lax at the shrine, which is entered through two gold-plated doors.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif vowed that security forces would track down the perpetrators of the attack, according to Pakistani state TV.
"Each drop of the nation's blood shall be avenged, and avenged immediately," Pakistan's army chief, Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, said in a statement. "No more restraint for anyone.''
Pakistan has been at war with the Taliban and other extremist groups for more than a decade. In recent years it has launched major offensives against militant strongholds in the tribal regions along the border with Afghanistan, but insurgents have continued to carry out attacks elsewhere in the country.
Daesh has been expanding its presence in Pakistan in recent years claiming a number of deadly attacks, including a suicide bombing at another shrine in November 2016 that martyred more than 50 people.
Source: News Agencies, Edited by website team