An attack on a Sufi shrine in Pakistan has taken 52 lives and injured at least 100 more. ISIL soon claimed responsibility for the attack which was carried out against devotees during a significant time of the Sufi year. The remoteness of the shrine’s location in Pakistan’s Balochistan region made it difficult for emergency services to quickly reach the scene, BBC reports.
The bombing took place at sunset on Saturday, November 12 at the Shah Noorani Shrine, in the city of Khuzdar. This particular day marked the 500th birth anniversary of Shah Noorani, the Sufi saint after which the shrine was named. Furthermore, the shrine attracts more worshippers this time of the year, and a larger-than-usual crowd had gathered for a nightly ‘trance’ dance, the dhamaal, a manifestation of the Sufi physical expression of faith performed by devotees at sunset.
After the incident, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif called for a speedy rescue operation. Pakistan’s The Tribune reports that at least 70 ambulances and several medical teams were dispatched to pick up the injured, taking them back to the country’s largest city, Karachi, more than four hours south. Due to the shrine’s remote location and distance from regional centres, emergency services struggled to reach the site. Helicopters were sent at the request of Imran Khan, leader of the centrist Tehreek-e-Insaf party, and hundreds of Pakistani soldiers were deployed to assist at the site.
At first, authorities could not confirm whether the bomb was planted or whether it was a suicide attack, however it was soon revealed that the perpetrator was a 14-year-old boy committing an act of suicide, later confirmed a member of ISIL. Recently, doubt has been cast over claims made on attacks by the Islamic extremist group. If the act was committed by ISIL it is yet another diversion from their main operations in the battle of Mosul.
Zealous, physical expression of Islam is looked down upon by Islamic extremists, and practitioners of the Sufi faith have been targeted out of contempt. Sufism is also known as the most ‘tolerant’ form of Islam and has millions of followers in Pakistan.
Balochistan has seen a number of attacks against civilians in recent years, in addition to a sometimes-violent secessionist movement in which the large, rugged region wants to fully separate from Pakistan.
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