Families ripped apart in Pakistan shrine attack

Pakistani mourners surrounding the coffin of a relative killed in a bomb attack on the Shah Noorani Sufi shrine ahead of his funeral in Karachi on Nov 13, 2016.
Pakistani mourners surrounding the coffin of a relative killed in a bomb attack on the Shah Noorani Sufi shrine ahead of his funeral in Karachi on Nov 13, 2016.PHOTO: AFP

KHUZDAR DISTRICT (PAKISTAN) • Survivors of a massive bomb attack on a shrine in south-west Pakistan that killed dozens spoke of their horror yesterday after families were ripped apart in a strike showing the expanding reach of the ISIS group.

The blast, later confirmed to be the work of a teenage suicide bomber, hit male and female worshippers as they were dancing and chanting at the shrine of the Sufi saint Shah Noorani, 750km south of Quetta, the provincial capital of restive Balochistan province.

Mr Mohammad Shehzad, a 25-year-old who had travelled in a group of 120 pilgrims, told Agence France-Presse: "The pressure of the blast was so strong, people were blown away. Everyone was running, shouting and searching for families.

"Children were looking for their mothers and fathers. People were looking for brothers and sisters but no one was able to listen to their cries."

The attack killed 52 and wounded more than 105. It was the fourth deadliest in Pakistan this year. Stricken survivors swathed themselves in blankets and braved the cold under open skies overnight as they made their way home.

Witnesses said problems were compounded by the fact that it took several hours for rescue services to reach the remote shrine, located on a hilltop in the Khuzdar district of Balochistan several kilometres away from surrounding villages, with poor mobile network coverage.

Mr Sarfraz Bugti, the province's home minister, said the blast was carried out by a teenage suicide bomber.

"We have found body parts of the bomber which place his age at around 16 to 18," he said.

The announcement lent credence to a claim of responsiblity by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group, which released a photo of the purported attacker - a dark-skinned youth dressed in a white tunic with a green backpack - via its affiliated Amaq news agency.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 14, 2016, with the headline 'Families ripped apart in Pakistan shrine attack'. Print Edition | Subscribe