Thu, 30 Nov 2023

A blast at a religious gathering to mark the birthday of Prophet Mohammed killed at least 52 people in the western Balochistan province, said health and police officials. Hours later, another blast ripped through a mosque in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province further north, killing at least two people, according to local officials.

The first bombing occurred in Mastung, a district in Pakistan's western Balochistan province, said government administrator Atta Ullah. Dozens of injured people were taken to nearby hospitals and some were in critical condition, he added.

"The bomber detonated himself near the vehicle of the Deputy Superintendent of Police," said Deputy Inspector General of Police Munir Ahmed, adding that the blast took place near a mosque where people were gathering for a procession to mark the Prophet Mohammed's birthday, which is a public holiday.

TV footage and video clips on social media showed an open area near the mosque strewn with the shoes of the dead and wounded after the bombing. Some of the bodies had been covered with bedsheets, and residents and rescuers were seen rushing the wounded to hospitals, where a state of emergency had been declared and appeals were being issued for blood donations.

Hours later, a blast at a mosque in Hangu, a city in the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, killed at least two people during the Friday prayers, according to local officials.

"The roof of the mosque caved in due to the impact of the explosion," Hangu District Police Officer Nisar Ahmed told the Pakistani daily, Dawn. Dozens of people were reported to be trapped under the rubble, Ahmed added.

Friday's bombings came days after authorities asked police to remain on maximum alert as militants could target rallies making the birthday of Islam's prophet.

No group has claimed responsibility for the blasts, which came amid a surge in attacks claimed by militant groups in the west of the country, raising the stakes for security forces ahead of national elections scheduled for January next year.

'Heinous act'

Pakistan's caretaker Interior Minister Sarfraz Bugti denounced the bombing shortly after the suicide blast ripped the religious gathering in Balochistan and expressed sorrow and grief over the loss of lives. He said it was a "heinous act" to target people at the Mawlid an-Nabi procession.

The government had declared a national holiday for the birth anniversary of Prophet Mohammed, and President Arif Alvi and caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul-haq-Kakar in separate massages had called for unity and for people to adhere to the teachings of Islam's prophet.

The Pakistani Taliban, known as Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, or TTP, quickly distanced themselves from the attack. The TTP is a close ally of the Afghan Taliban, which seized power in neighbouring Afghanistan in August 2021 as US and NATO troops were in the final stages of their pullout from the country after 20 years of war.

Previous deadly attacks in Balochistan and elsewhere have been claimed by the Islamic State (IS) group. The gas-rich southwestern Balochistan province at the border of Afghanistan and Iran has been the site of a low-level insurgency by Baloch nationalists for more than two decades. Baloch nationalists initially wanted a share of provincial resources, but they later launched an insurgency calling for independence.

(FRANCE 24 with AP and Reuters)

Originally published on France24

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