An Islamic State suicide bomber struck inside a famed shrine in southern Pakistan on Thursday, killing at least 75 people in the deadliest attack in the country in more than two years. (Feb. 17) AP
Security forces in Pakistan killed dozens of militants and arrested scores of people Friday after a suicide bombing at a Sufi shrine in the south of the country killed at least 88 people.
The attack, which was claimed by the Islamic State, happened at the shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar, a 13th century Muslim saint, in the town of Sehwan in Sindh province Thursday. Medical official Moeen Uddin Siddiqui told AFP that at least 20 children were among the dead.
Meanwhile, the death toll in an Islamic State car bombing at an auto dealership in the Iraqi capital Baghdad rose to 59 Friday, with 66 other people injured, the AP reported. Authorities said four other attacks in the Baghdad area Thursday killed eight people and wounded about 30.
The Islamic State, also known as ISIS and ISIL, has also launched a string of attacks in Baghdad following setbacks in areas including Mosul, where U.S.-backed Iraqi troops have been engaged in an operation to retake the city from the militants since October.
A government official told AFP that the crackdown across Pakistan started early Friday and would continue for the next few days.
Pakistani armed forces spokesman Asif Ghafoor said more than 100 militants were killed in operations across the country since Thursday night and "sizable apprehensions" were made.
Pakistani security officials told the Associated Press that a number of extremists died in shootouts following raids on their hideouts, including 11 in Karachi, the capital of Sindh, and seven elsewhere in the province. At least 47 people were arrested, the AP reported.
ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack on the shrine in a statement carried by its Aamaq news agency. The militants view the shrine as a form of idolatry.
Ghafoor said the attacks were conducted with support from neighboring Afghanistan and that the military closed the border between the two nations for security reasons. He said Afghan authorities were given a list of 76 terrorists hiding in their country and were asked to find them and hand them over to Pakistan.
At 3.30 a.m. local time Friday, the caretaker at the centuries-old shrine rang the bell as the floor remained smeared with blood and scattered with items including shoes and baby bottles. He vowed to continue the daily ritual and said he would not bow down to terrorists, AFP reported.
Ahmad Ali Hazrat, an Afghan official, said Friday that ISIS fighters killed 17 soldiers in an attack on security posts in Afghanistan's eastern Nangarhar province on Thursday night.
The attacks happened days after a Taliban-linked group bombed pharmacists protesting changes to drug sale laws in the northeastern Pakistani city of Lahore, killing at least 13 people and wounding dozens. A spokesman for the Jamaat-ul-Ahrar group said the attack was "just the start,” Al Jazeera reported.