A powerful bomb tore through a busy Shiite mosque in southern Pakistan on Friday, killing close to 50 people in the country’s deadliest sectarian attack in nearly two years.’
The blast hit the mosque in Shikarpur in Sindh province, around 470 kilometres (300 miles) north of Karachi, as hundreds of worshippers attended Friday prayers.Pakistan has suffered a rising tide of sectarian violence in recent years, most of it perpetrated by hardline Sunni Muslim groups against minority Shiite Muslims, who make up around one in five of the population.
Shaukat Ali Memon, the medical superintendent of Civil Hospital in Shikarpur, gave a death toll of 48.Earlier, Sindh health minister Jam Mehtab Daher told AFP that “a total of 40 have been killed in the attack, 46 others have been wounded”. Hundreds of people rushed to the scene after the blast to try to dig out survivors trapped under the roof of the mosque, which collapsed in the explosion, witness Zahid Noon said.
Television footage of the aftermath showed chaotic rescue scenes as people piled the wounded into cars, motorbikes and rickshaws to take them for treatment.“The area is scattered with blood and flesh and it smells of burnt meat, people are screaming at each other… it is chaos,” Noon told AFP.“A huge contingent of police and rangers is present here and ambulances from the nearby towns have started to arrive.”Local resident Mohammad Jehangir told AFP he had “felt the earth move beneath my feet” as he prayed at another mosque around 1.5 kilometres away.An official with a national Shiite organisation, Rahat Kazmi, told AFP that up to 400 people were worshipping in the mosque when the blast struck.