At least 52 people were killed and more than 50 injured on Friday in a suicide attack on a religious gathering to mark the birthday of Prophet Mohammed in Pakistan’s restive Balochistan province, a local health official said.
No group has claimed responsibility for the blast, which comes amid a surge in attacks claimed by militant groups in the west of the country, raising the stakes for security forces ahead of national elections scheduled for January next year.
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“The bomber detonated himself near the vehicle of the Deputy Superintendent of Police,” Deputy Inspector General of Police Munir Ahmed told Reuters.
The blast ripped through near a mosque in Balochistan province where people were gathered for a procession to mark Prophet Mohammed’s birthday, which is a public holiday, Ahmed added.
At least 58 people were wounded, said Abdul Rasheed, a district health official, adding that the toll could rise as many people were in a serious condition.
Pakistan has seen a resurgence of attacks by extremist militants since last year when a ceasefire broke down between the government and the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), an umbrella organization of various hardline groups.
The TTP denied it had carried out Friday’s attack.
Interior Minister Sarfraz Bugti called the attack a “very heinous act.”
In July, more than 40 people were killed in a suicide bombing in northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province at a religious political party’s gathering.