GHAZI KHAN At least 41 people were killed, including five children and nine women, as a result of twin suicide blasts at Sakhi Sarwar shrine on Sunday.
Hundreds of devotees from different parts of the country had gathered at the shrine for the annul Urs celebrations when the attacks took place. According to details, 41 devotees were killed and over 90 others received multiple injuries when a suicide bomber blew himself up at the main gate of Hazrat Sakhi Sarwar shrine followed by another blast within three minutes.
However, divisional incharge Rescue 1122 told this scribe that the death toll is over 30 while ambulances from Multan, Muzaffargarh, Layyah and Rajanpur are shifting the dead and the injured to the District Headquarters Hospital, Dera Ghazi Khan.
Agencies add: The bombers struck outside the shrine of the 13th century Sufi saint Ahmed Sultan, popularly known as Sakhi Sarwar. We have recovered 41 bodies so far, said the officer, Zahid Hussain Shah.
Both were suicide attackers, they came on foot and blew themselves up when police on duty stopped them. I was just a few yards away from the place where the blast happened, said witness Faisal Iqbal. People started running outside the shrine. Women and children were crying and screaming.
It was like hell. Many of those wounded in the attack were in a serious condition, he said, and the injured have been taken to the Dera Ghazi Khan hospital for treatment.
According to a private TV channel, young doctors of DG Khan who were on strike for the last 34 days have resumed their duties due to emergency situation. Several people rushed to hospitals for blood donations for the injured. Police have been deployed outside the hospitals.
Regional police chief Ahmed Mubarak also confirmed two suicide bombers tried to enter the shrine but failed and blew themselves up. A police official, requesting anonymity, said the shrine had received threats from unidentified militants.
Police have apprehended a suspected suicide bomber. His suicide jacket has been defused while he has been shifted to an undisclosed location for investigation. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the suicide attacks at the shrine.
Our men carried out these attacks and we will carry out more in retaliation for government operations against our people in the northwest, Ehsanullah Ehsan, a spokesman for the militants, told Reuters by telephone from undisclosed location.
Taliban are vehemently opposed to the Sufi strand of Islam. A bomb blast outside the popular shrine of the 12th century saint, Baba Farid, also known as Ganjshakar in Pakpattan, killed four people, including women, in October last year. On October 7, two suicide bombers blew themselves up at a Sufi shrine of Abdullah Shah Ghazi in Karachi, killing nine devotees, including two children. Police have been deployed outsides shrines in Lahore and Karachi after Sundays twin blasts at Sakhi Sarwar shrine in DG Khan.
Many analysts say the attacks are motivated by more than religious hatred, and that militant groups hope by inflaming sectarian tensions they can further destabilise Pakistan and weaken the governments tenuous grip on the country.
More than 4,150 people have been killed in suicide attacks and bomb explosions, blamed on homegrown Taliban and other extremist networks, since government troops stormed Lal Masjid in Islamabad in July 2007.