Pakistan cracks down on militants after shrine bombing

Pakistani security forces on Friday killed and arrested dozens of suspected militants during a nationwide sting prompted by the deaths of more than 100 people this week in a fresh blast of violence that ended a period of fragile calm.

A spate of suicide bombings, improvised explosive device blasts and drive-by shootings claimed by Taliban insurgents and Islamic State militants shook the country this week.

An Islamic State suicide bomber blew himself up among devotees at the shrine of 13th century Sufi saint Lal Shahbaz Qalandar, the most revered shrine of Sufi Islam, late Thursday, initially killing 70 people and culminating the deadliest week in several months.

The death toll rose to 80 on Friday, said Moin Ahmed, a doctor at a local hospital in Sehwan Sharif, in the southern province of Sindh.

Nearly 40 of 250 people wounded in the attack remained in critical condition, which means more deaths were expected, Ahmed added.

Paramilitary Rangers killed nearly a dozen militants in the southern city of Karachi in an overnight raid, security sources told dpa.

At least one of the suspects was the leader of the Islamic State group.

Several suspects from the city of Hyderabad were arrested near the town of Sehwan, where the Sufi shrine was attacked on Thursday, police official Irfan Baloch said.

Dozens of militants were also killed in raids that continued throughout Friday in the central and north-western parts of the country, police sources said.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif condemned the massacre as an attack on the future of “progressive, inclusive” Pakistan and vowed to do “anything possible” to protect the country, his office said.

Military chief Qamar Bajwa vowed to step up ongoing offensives against Taliban rebels, saying every drop of blood would be avenged.

NAN/Nnenna.O