ISLAMABAD — At least 54 people were killed in southwestern Pakistan on Friday when a suicide bomber targeted a procession to mark the anniversary of the birth of the Muslim prophet Mohammed, police said.
The bombing targeted people gathering outside a mosque in the town of Mastung in the volatile province of Balochistan, police officer Abdul Qudoos told German Press Agency.
A senior police officer was among the dead, another officer Azam Khan said.
More than 70 injured people were being treated at the local hospital, doctor Saeed Ahmed said. He said he feared the death toll would go up as some of the injured people were in critical condition.
The procession was attended by followers of the Barelvi sect, which has strong influences from Sufism. The sect is often targeted by the extremist Islamic State group.
A state of emergency has been declared at hospitals, and the security forces have cordoned off the area.
Balochistan’s Information Minister Jan Achakzai called upon the people to donate blood to help the critically injured victims.
Mastung, a town near the provincial capital city Quetta, has been the hub of sectarian Sunni militant groups like Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ).
The LeJ group has long been associated with al-Qaeda, providing the group once led by Osama bin Laden with the manpower before switching to Islamic State recently.
No group has claimed responsibility for the latest bombing, but the Pakistani Taliban said in a statement that they were not behind it.
The Islamic State in Khurasan (ISIK), a local offshoot of the group, was the likely perpetrator, police officer Javed Lehri said.
A politician from a leading Islamic party in Pakistan survived a bombing on his car in Mastung earlier this month.
Hours after the Mastung bombing on Friday, another bomb in Pakistan’s north-western region targeted a mosque near a police station.
The blast killed at least two people and wounded more than a dozen others, local officials said.