Islamabad, Jan 30 (IANS) At least 35 people were killed and over 50 injured as a blast hit a Shia mosque in Pakistan’s southern province of Sindh Friday afternoon, officials said.
Deputy Commissioner of the province’s Shikarpur district, Hadi Bakhsh, said that 35 bodies and over 50 wounded people were at hospitals of three cities in the region, Xinhua news agency reported.
Bakhsh said that the toll might rise further as some of the injured were in a critical condition and were being treated in the intensive care units of the hospitals.
Deputy Inspector General of Police, Sain Rakhio Mirani, said the incident took place at 1.40 p.m. when a young boy in the disguise of a beggar placed an explosive device near the stairs inside the mosque in Lakhi Dar area in downtown Shikarpur city.
According to the Bomb Disposal Squad, at least five kg of explosives along with ball bearings were used in the bomb and it was detonated with a remote-controlled device.
“We are checking whether the boy who brought the bomb was also killed in the blast or not, because we have found the remote control from the mosque premises,” said the police officer.
Earlier, some media reports said that it was a suicide attack but no official has confirmed it so far.
At the time of the blast, around 600 people were offering Friday prayers in the mosque, police said.
Following the blast, the roof of the old hall of the mosque also collapsed and several people were injured after being trapped under the debris.
Police and Pakistan Rangers, a paramilitary force, have cordoned off the area and launched a search operation.
Provincial Health Minister Jam Mehtab said severely injured people were being treated at hospitals in nearby cities due to the shortage of medical facilities at the local hospital.
The Inter Services Public Relations, the mouthpiece of the Pakistan Army, said the army has also sent four ambulances and army doctors from nearby Pano Aqil Garrison to treat injured patients.
The bomb attack took place when Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was chairing a meeting on the law and order situation in the port city of Karachi, capital of southern Sindh province.
Reiterating his government’s resolve to eradicate the menace of terrorism and extremism in the country, Nawaz Sharif has condemned the bomb attack and sought a report on it.
The prime minister extended condolences to the bereaved families and asked the authorities to provide the best medical treatment to the injured.
According to local English newspaper Express Tribune, militant group Jundallah, which pledged its support to the Islamic State last year, has claimed responsibility for the attack.
The Majlis Wahdat-e-Muslimeen Pakistan and Shia Ulema Council, representative organisations of the Shia Muslims in the country, announced a three-day countrywide mourning over the attack.
President Mamnoon Hussain, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chairman Imran Khan and Muttahida Qaumi Movement chief Altaf Hussain also issued messages condemning the incident.
It is the second major attack on a Shia mosque in the country since the beginning of 2015. The first was an attack on Rawalpindi’s imambargah Aun Mohammad Rizvi in the garrison city’s Chatian Hatian area.