Islamic State claims suicide bombing at Baluchistan, Pakistan, shrine that killed 52

Pakistani rescue workers unload a baby injured in the bomb blast from an ambulance. At least 52 people were killed in the explosion at a Sufi shrine on Nov. 12.
Sabir Mazhar | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Islamic State claimed a deadly bomb attack Saturday at a Muslim shrine in southern Pakistan which officials said killed at least 52 people and wounded 106.

The attack targeted a shrine of the Sufi version of Islam, in the Khuzdar area, about 65 miles north of the port city of Karachi, in Baluchistan province. Officials said hundreds of devotees were present in the shrine complex when the bomb exploded, just after sunset, and many were participating in a ritual dance.

Locals told Pakistani television channels that the blast left bodies and the injured strewn across the shrine.

A woman who escaped the attack unhurt said the complex was crowded with devotees at the time. "I went to a lower level to avoid the crowd and within minutes, there was a huge explosion," she said, in remarks broadcast on a local channel. "It was a horrific explosion, the ceiling and the walls shook and then there was chaos everywhere."

Pakistani security officials said the initial investigation indicated it was a suicide bombing. The remote location hampered rescue efforts, officials said.

"If the terrorists want to send a message that the government and the people should surrender, that's impossible," said Sarfaraz Bugti, the provincial home minister. "We are on the right path and we will fight this war to the end."

Pakistani rescuers transport the bodies of victims to a hospital in Karachi on Nov. 12, after a suicide bombing at a Sufi shrine.
Rizwan Tabassum | AFP | Getty Images

Islamic State claimed the bombing in a statement distributed through social media and their official Amaq news outlet. The militant group is based in Iraq and Syria, but it has begun to claim attacks in Pakistan, including a gun assault last month at a police academy, also in Baluchistan province, that killed more than 60 people. A Pakistani militant group claimed it had collaborated with Islamic State in that attack.

The Pakistani government still insists that Islamic State has no organized presence in the country.

Islamic State claimed Saturday's attack was carried out by a suicide bomber who targeted "polytheists," said the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadist statements. The Islamic State message also used a derogatory Arabic term for Shiite Muslims to describe the victims.

Local officials said Muslims from both the Shiite and Sunni sects visit the shrine, which is devoted to a Sufi saint. The Sufi tradition is a moderate, inclusive version of Islam, in which saints, devotional music and dance play a central role. Islamic State and other Sunni extremists like the Pakistani Taliban regard both Shiites and Sufis as heretics. Sufi Islam has tens of millions of followers in South Asia.

While Shiites are more regular targets, Sunni militants have attacked Sufi shrines in Pakistan in recent years. In a prominent attack, suicide bombers killed dozens at the Data Darbar shrine in the eastern city of Lahore, one of the most sacred sites of Sufi Islam in Pakistan, in 2010.

Terrorist attacks overall have decreased in Pakistan over the last two years as a result of stepped-up military and police operations against jihadist groups.