The Islamic State’s Khorasan province claimed credit for today’s suicide bombing at a Sufi shrine in Sindh province, Pakistan that killed at least 70 people and wounded scores more. The attack is the latest in a series of suicide bombings in Pakistan by an assortment of jihadist groups.
The suicide bomber detonated his explosive-packed vest inside the Lal Shahbaz Qalandar, a Sufi shrine in the town of Sehwan, after he tossed a faulty hand grenade, Dawn reported. More than 150 people were reportedly wounded in the blast, with some in critical condition.
The Islamic State claimed credit for the bombing in a statement released on Amaq News Agency, one of its official propaganda outlets. Amaq said that Usman Ansari was the “martyr of the Islamic State,” or the suicide bomber.
In the past, the Islamic State and other jihadist groups have targeted Sufi shrines in Pakistan. Many Pakistani jihadist groups consider Sufi Muslims to be heretics for worshiping saints, maintaining shrines, and other religious practices that differ from their beliefs.
Most recently, on Nov. 12, 2016, an Islamic State suicide bomber killed at least 52 people in a blast at the Shah Noorani shrine in Kuzdar. The Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan has targeted Sufi shrines as well. On April 3, 2011, a group killed 41 people in a double suicide attack on a Sufi shrine in Dera Ghazi Khan.
Jihadist groups have not limited their operations to Sufis alone. Christians and Amadis, another religious section considered to be heretics by many Muslims in Pakistan, have been relentlessly targeted by jihadists groups. However, mainstream Muslims have bourn the brunt of the jihadists’ attacks.
Jihadists on the offensive in Pakistan
Today’s suicide bombing is the latest in a series of similar operations by jihadist groups against the Pakistani military and civilian institutions.
On Feb. 13, a suicide bomber killed more than a dozen people and wounded scores more after detonating his explosives outside of the Punjab provincial assembly building. Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, a dangerous faction of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, claimed that attack as part of “Operation Ghazi,” an offensive that is designed to target all facets of Pakistani society.
Two days later, a Jamaat-ul-Ahrar suicide bomber killed three tribal policemen and two civilians in a blast in Mohmand agency. That same day, a Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan suicide bomber killed one person and wounded four more in an attack which targeted judges in the city of Peshawar.
The Pakistani government has responded by blaming Afghanistan for sheltering Pakistani terrorist groups. On Feb. 15, Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs chided the Afghan deputy head of mission for allowing Jamaat-ul-Ahrar to maintain “sanctuaries inside Afghanistan.”
“Afghanistan was urged to take urgent measures to eliminate the terrorists and their sanctuaries, financiers and handlers operating from its territory,” according to a statement released by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
While Jamaat-ul-Ahrar is known to operate on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistan border, its primary base of operations is in Pakistan’s tribal agencies. But the group maintains a strong presence in all of Pakistan’s provinces.