Islamic State has claimed responsibility for a bomb that killed at least 70 people and injured about 150 when it exploded in a crowded shrine in southern Pakistan on Thursday.
Officials said a suicide bomber detonated the bomb among crowds gathered for the busiest day of the week at the famous shrine to Sufi saint Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Sehwan, a town in Sindh province.
Amaq, a news agency affiliated to Isis, claimed the jihadi group had carried out the devastating attack.
It was the latest such attack on devotees of Sufism, a mystical and generally moderate form of Islam despised by radical fundamentalists.
“The explosion took place when a large number of people were inside the shrine boundary,” a local police officer said. “A huge number of people come to the shrine every Thursday to take part in ritual dances and prayers. It is not possible to ensure the security of every person coming and going.”
A senior police officer said at least 72 people had been killed and more than 150 injured, adding that the death toll was likely to rise.
Muheen Ahmed, the medical superintendent at the Sehwan hospital, said it lacked the necessary beds to cope with the incident and some people had been sent to Hyderabad.
Pakistan has seen a spike in terrorist attacks in recent days, including an attack on peaceful protesters in the heart of Lahore, a bomb in Quetta that killed two police officers and an explosion in the frontier city of Peshawar.
Isis has claimed a handful of previous attacks in Pakistan, including one on a Sufi shrine in November in Balochistan province.
The militant group is not thought to have an extensive organisation in Pakistan, but has forged close ties with local terror franchises including a faction of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a long-established Sunni sectarian outfit.
Isis also claimed responsibility for a deadly attack on police cadets in the city of Quetta last year, thought to be a joint operation with various jihadi groups.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010