SEHWAN: Pakistani forces on Friday said that they had killed more than 100 ‘terrorists’ after 88 people died in an attack, claimed by the IS militant group, on a Sufi shrine which stoked fears of a fresh surge in militancy.
The devastating blast came after a series of bloody extremist assaults this week, including a powerful suicide bomb in the eastern city of Lahore which killed 13 people and wounded dozens.
Prime Minister (PM) Nawaz Sharif and Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa on Friday visited the town of Sehwan in Sindh province where the latest attack took place.
Nawaz vowed to eliminate militants with the full force of the state.
Pakistan’s military later said that operations were in progress across the country. “Over 100 terrorists have been killed since last night,” it said, adding others had been detained.
The emergence of IS group and a Taliban resurgence would be a major blow to Pakistan, and the attacks have dented growing optimism over security after a decade-long war on militancy.
Police on Friday cordoned off the shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar, a 13th century Muslim saint, in Sehwan, some 200 kilometres (124 miles) northeast of financial hub Karachi.
The centuries-old shrine's white floor was smeared with blood, scattered with shoes, shawls, and baby bottles.
At 3:30 am the shrine’s caretaker stood among the carnage and defiantly rang its bell, a daily ritual that he vowed to continue, telling AFP he will “not bow down to terrorists.”
Health officials said the number of people killed in the shrine blast had jumped to 88, including at least 20 children, making it the deadliest attack in Pakistan since a 2014 assault on a Peshawar school.