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Pakistan

Pakistan shrine bomb blast kills scores

The so-called "Islamic State" militant group has claimed credit for a blast at a Sufi shrine in southwest Pakistan, which killed at least 50 people. The shrine is used by both Shiites and Sunnis.

More than 50 people have been killed and scores injured in a large bomb blast claimed by the "Islamic State" at a Sufi shrine in southwestern Pakistan.

The explosion occurred when hundreds of pilgrims were attending annual ceremonies at the remote Shah Noorani near the town of Hub, about 100 kilometers (62 miles) north of the port city of Karachi, in Baluchistan province.

Provincial Home Minister Sarfraz Bugti said 52 had been killed and 105 injured.

Local hospitals were flooded with dozens of injured victims, and authorities said the death toll was likely to rise.

The IS-affiliated news agency Amaq said the group carried out the attack to target Shiites. The shrine is used by both Sunnis and Shiites. Hard-line groups like the Taliban and IS regularly target Shiites and consider mystical Sufi Islam and shrines as heretical.

The blast occurred as hundreds of worshipers were participating in a daily devotional dance at the shrine. 

"Every day, around sunset, there is a dhamaal [ritual dance] here, and there are large numbers of people who come for this," said Nawaz Ali, the shrine's custodian.

The attack comes after prominent Sufi singer Amjad Sabri was gunned down in Karachi in June.

Baluchistan has been the center of a low-level ethnic Baloch separatist insurgency and the target of Islamist militant attacks in the past. The town of Quetta is a known base for the Taliban.

The province has suffered some of the worst militant attacks this year in Pakistan. Last month, gunmen raided a police academynear Quetta, killing 61 people, mostly cadets, before security forces cleared the facility. That attack was claimed by IS and the militant group Lashkar-e Jhangvi. 

Baluchistan is also home to a key $46 billion (42.3 billion euros) transport and trade corridor between Pakistan and China, which hinges on a deep-water port in the southwestern city of Gwadar.

cw, bik/rc (Reuters, AP, dpa, AFP)

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