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Deadly Suicide Bombing Rocks Prophet Muhammad’s Birthday Celebration in Pakistan’s Balochistan Province, At Least 52 Killed

Men and paramedic staff transfer a man, who was injured in a blast in Mastung, from an ambulance outside hospital in Quetta, Pakistan September 29, 2023. REUTERS/Stringer

A suspected suicide bomb blast during a procession to commemorate the birthday of Prophet Muhammad has left a devastating toll of 52 dead and many more critically wounded in the Mastung district of Pakistan’s Balochistan province. The powerful explosion occurred near a mosque on Friday, shocking the community and prompting local officials to declare a state of emergency.

Abdul Rasheed, a district health official, confirmed the statistics, stating, “At least 52 people had died in the blast, and 58 others were wounded. The toll could further rise as many people remain in serious condition.”

The blast, described as a “heinous act” by the country’s interior ministry, took place near the vehicle of Deputy Superintendent of Police Nawaz Gishkori.

Senior local police officer Javed Lehri, assessing the situation, said, “It seems a suicide attack.”

Unverified images and videos that emerged later showed bloodied corpses and severed limbs strewn about as bystanders assessed the extent of the damage.

Mastung Assistant Commissioner (AC) Atta-ul-Munim told that the blast occurred as individuals were assembling for an Eid-i-Miladun Nabi procession in the vicinity of Madina Masjid on Alfalah Road.

“The bomber detonated himself near the vehicle of the deputy superintendent of police (DSP),” Deputy Inspector General (DIG) Munir Ahmed told Reuters, adding that the blast took place near the mosque where people were gathering for a procession to mark Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) birthday, which is a public holiday.

While no group has claimed responsibility for the attack thus far, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), commonly known as the Pakistani Taliban, distanced itself from the incident. The TTP, although a distinct entity, maintains close ties with the Afghan Taliban, which seized power in neighbouring Afghanistan in August 2021.

Al Jazeera‘s Kamal Hyder said, “The TTP, which had been carrying out attacks in the area, has denied it was involved.” The presence of Islamic State (ISIL or ISIS) elements in the region has raised concerns about potential involvement by other extremist groups.

The bombing comes only days after authorities issued a high alert, warning that armed groups might target gatherings during the Prophet’s birthday celebration. Muslims in Pakistan and worldwide mark this event with public gatherings and festivities, though some denominations consider it an unwarranted innovation within Islam.

Pakistan has unfortunately been the site of previous attacks by armed groups. Earlier this month, a blast in the same district of Balochistan left at least 11 people injured, including a prominent religious leader. In July, a suicide bombing at a religious political party’s gathering in northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province resulted in the deaths of over 40 individuals.

Balochistan, a gas-rich province bordering Afghanistan and Iran, has experienced a low-intensity rebellion by Baloch separatists for over two decades. Initially seeking a fair share of provincial resources, the separatists later demanded full independence, making the region a complex and volatile area of concern.

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