Pakistan security forces killed at least 39 militants in a nationwide crackdown on Friday after an Islamic State suicide bombing at a crowded Sufi shrine in Sindh province claimed 80 lives and injured nearly 250. The blast at the popular shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in the southern province on Thursday was one of the deadliest in Pakistan in years and came after several extremist attacks this week, despite the army’s offensive against militants.
Paramilitary Sindh Rangers said they killed 18 terrorists in overnight operations in the province. Of them, seven were killed in a shootout on a highway near Kathor when the paramilitary troops were returning from Sehwan, where the bombing at the 13th century shrine took place on Friday.
Eleven terrorists were killed in Karachi, according to the Rangers. In the northwestern Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, police said they killed 12 extremists. Three were killed in Peshawar, four in Orakzai tribal region, and another four in an exchange of fire with security forces in Bannu area of the restive province.
According to officials, weapons and hand-grenades were seized from the militants. Three terrorists were killed in separate incidents in tribal regions of Khurram and Mohmand districts, an official said, adding a security personnel was killed in the clash.
In Balochistan, two terrorist were killed in a shootout with security forces in the provincial capital Quetta. Another two were killed in Sargodha district of Punjab province. Other militants were killed in raids across the country. Official said the crackdown would be intensified in the coming days as government has resolved to eliminate militancy.
“After the string of terrorist attacks in the country in the past week, the government and military are on one page and the crackdown was ordered,” a top government official said. Pakistan Army began an operation in Shalman area near the Pakistan-Afghan border, using heavy artillery fire, reports said.
The border with Afghanistan at Torkham has been shut. The crackdown was launched simultaneously by the federal and provincial governments after at least eight terror attacks rocked Pakistan over the week, killing dozens. A meeting chaired by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif this week participants agreed that militants posing threat to national security should be “liquidated”.
The army said they placed required resources to facilitate rescue efforts. The ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack through their Aamaq news agency. The shrine has been sealed and police have collected initial evidence and secured CCTV footage.
The fresh wave of terror attacks started when a suicide bomber attacked a protest rally outside the Punjab assembly in Lahore on Monday killing 14 people and injuring dozens. On the same day, a terrorist attack was foiled in Quetta, but two officials of the Bomb Disposal Squad were killed while defusing a bomb in Quetta. Terrorists also carried out attacks in Mohmand agency and Peshawar followed by shrine blast in Sindh.