Karachi: A powerful blast killed nearly 50 people, including children, during Friday prayers at a packed minority Shia mosque in Pakistan’s Sindh province, the deadliest sectarian attack to hit the country in recent times. The explosion, carried out by Jundullah, a splinter group of Taliban, brought down the roof of Imambargah Maula Karballa in Lakhi Dar area of Shikarpur — around 470 km north of Karachi— and buried worshippers.
At least 49 people were killed while 55 others were injured, some critically, in the attack when worshippers had assembled for the 'Zuhr' afternoon Friday prayers.
Many were trapped under the debris and hundreds of people rushed to the scene to dig out survivors. The explosion was heard several kilometers away.
Children are also said to be among the victims.
Deputy commissioner Hadi Bakhsh Zardari confirmed the toll, saying at least 49 people were killed in the blast.
Civil Hospital Shikarpur also issued a list of 49 victims.
Inspector General of police Rakhio Mirani said the explosion took place soon after a suspected young man entered the mosque.
Private media earlier said it could be suicide bombing but it was not clear so far.
Television footage showed chaotic scenes as people rushed to take the wounded for treatment using cars, motorbikes and rickshaws.
"It was a big explosion inside the Imambargah and was set off with a remote device. The intensity of the blast led to the roof of the make-shift building caving in completely which has led to many deaths," police official Abdullah Mehr said.
Geo TV quoted DIG Shikarpur Rakhio Mirani as saying that a man brought a device inside the Imambargah and used it to detonate a bomb.
The blast is the latest in a rising tide of sectarian violence blighting Pakistan, where radical Sunni Muslim groups often target Shia Muslims, who form about one-fifth of the 180 million-population.
Jundullah militant group - that last year parted ways with the Taliban and announced allegiance with the Islamic State militant group - took responsibility of the attack.
"Our target were the Shia because they are our enemies," spokesman Fahad Marwat said.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif condemned the blast and ordered an immediate inquiry.
Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah announced a day of mourning for the victims of the blast.
This is Pakistan's bloodiest sectarian attack since January 22 last year in which 24 Shia pilgrims returning from Iran were killed when their bus was bombed in Balochistan. Lashkar-e-Jhangvi claimed the responsibility for that attack.
In December, the Taliban targetted an army-run school in Peshawar and killed 150 people, 132 of them children, in cold-blood.