The death toll rose to 50 yesterday after two suicide bombers unleashed carnage at a Sufi shrine in Pakistan where hundreds had gathered for a religious ceremony, an official said.
The bombers on Sunday struck the shrine of 13th century Sufi saint Ahmed Sultan, popularly known as Sakhi Sarwar, in Dera Ghazi Khan district of Punjab Province, about 480km southwest of Islamabad.
It was the deadliest suicide attack in Pakistan since a mosque bombing killed 68 people on Nov. 5 last year in the northwest area of Darra Adam Khel.
“We had 44 dead in our hospital. Six people died on the spot and their families took their bodies directly,” said Tariq Mehmood, an emergency ward official at Civil Hospital in Dera Ghazi Khan.
Local police officer Zahid Hussain Shah gave a marginally lower death toll of 49, which officials late on Sunday had put at 41.
“Most of the bodies have been identified and sent to their home towns for burial,” Shah said.
Islamist militants have increasingly targeted Sufi worshipers, who follow a mystical strain of Islam, in Muslim-majority Pakistan.
Dera Ghazi Khan is close to the tribal area which is known as a hub of Taliban and al-Qaeda-linked militants. The rugged tribal region is described by Washington as the most dangerous place on Earth and an al-Qaeda headquarters.
Local police officer Shah said funeral prayers for seven of Sunday’s victims would be held at the Sakhi Sarwar shrine, but that the majority of those killed were pilgrims from elsewhere in Punjab and neighboring Sindh Province.
About 70 people were still being treated for injuries in hospital, he added.
Police and security agencies are questioning a suspected accomplice arrested with a suicide jacket near the shrine and whom police said was injured when a grenade exploded in his hand.
The suspect was identified as an Afghan refugee in his mid-teens from the militant fortress of North Waziristan, in Pakistan’s northwest tribal belt.
Meanwhile, a teenage suicide bomber killed an anti-Taliban militia leader and seven other people yesterday, in the sixth bomb attack in Pakistan in as many days.
The bomber killed his apparent target as he sipped tea with relatives at a car showroom near a bus terminal in the small town of Jandol in the district of Lower Dir, 200km Islamabad.
Police said the bomber exploded himself on foot at a bus terminal close to the car showroom, where three people were among the dead and several vehicles were also damaged. The overall death toll had risen to eight by mid-afternoon.
Police said the target of the suicide attack was Mohammad Akbar, head of a lashkar, or tribal militia, set up by the government to fight Taliban militants.
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