Dozens of casualties in attack on Pakistan shrine

Dozens of casualties have been reported in southern Pakistan after a bomb exploded at a busy shrine packed with worshippers. 

The attack happened on Saturday in the restive southwestern province of Balochistan. At least 25 people were killed and dozens of others wounded, local officials said.

Hashim Ghalzai, a local district commissioner, told Reuters news agency the toll was based on initial reports and could rise further.

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Al Jazeera’s Kamal Hyder, reporting from the capital Islamabad, said the blast occurred outside Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city, in Hub district.

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The bombing at the remote Shah Noorani shrine took place while hundreds of people were inside. The Sufi shrine attracts a lot of people at this time of the year from other parts of Pakistan.

“There was a very large crowd at that Sufi shrine when the explosion happened,” Hyder reported. “They were commemorating the Sufi saint’s 500th birth anniversary. People killed include women and children.”

The government dispatched 25 ambulances from Hub to the shrine, said Akbar Harifal, provincial home secretary for Balochistan.

“Every day, around sunset, there is a dhamaal [ritual dance] here, and there are large numbers of people who come for this,” said Nawaz Ali, the shrine’s custodian.

Emergency services faced difficulties reaching the site because of its remote location.

Dozens of wounded people were moved to the nearby town of Hub and to Karachi, rescue official Hakeem Nasi told Geo TV.

Why is Balochistan an easy target in Pakistan?

Balochistan is the scene of a violent separatist movement. But officials recently told Al Jazeera the area has become a safe haven for fighters fleeing military operations in other regions bordering Afghanistan.

In the largely remote and neglected region, Pakistani security forces and symbols of the state have come under attack from armed groups while civilians have lost lives in sectarian violence.

Last month, attackers struck a police training college in Balochistan’s capital, Quetta, killing 61 people and wounding 170 others.

Balochistan is a strategically important province to Pakistan because of the high concentration of natural resources – including oil, coal, gold, copper and gas reserves, which generates substantial revenue for the federal government – and the only deep-sea port at Gwadar.

However, despite the abundance of natural resources, Balochistan remains the poorest Pakistani province, generating animosity from locals towards the federal government.

Al Jazeera World – Balochistan: Pakistan’s other war

Source: Al Jazeera News And Agencies