Dozens dead after blast at Pakistan celebration for prophet's birthday

Around 500 people had gathered for a procession from the mosque to celebrate the birth of the prophet, known as Mawlid an-Nabi.
A boy injured in a bomb explosion receives treatment at a hospital.
Posted at 7:19 AM, Sep 29, 2023

A powerful bomb exploded in a crowd of people celebrating the Prophet Muhammad's birthday in southwestern Pakistan on Friday, killing at least 52 people and wounding nearly 70 others, authorities said. It was one of the deadliest attacks in recent years.

TV footage and videos on social media showed an open area near a mosque strewn with the shoes of the dead and wounded. Some of the bodies had been covered with bedsheets. Residents and rescuers were seen rushing the wounded to hospitals, where a state of emergency had been declared and appeals were being issued for blood donations.

The bombing occurred in Mastung, a district in Baluchistan province, which has witnessed scores of attacks by insurgents. However, the militants normally target the security forces. The Pakistan Taliban have repeatedly said that they do not target places of worship or civilians.

Around 500 people had gathered for a procession from the mosque to celebrate the birth of the prophet, known as Mawlid an-Nabi, an occasion marked by rallies and the distribution of free meals.

Some of the wounded were in a critical condition, government administrator Atta Ullah said. Thirty bodies were taken to one hospital and 22 were counted at another, Abdul Rasheed, the District Health Officer in Mastung, said.

A senior police officer, Mohammad Nawaz, was among the dead, Ullah said. Officers were investigating whether the bombing was a suicide attack, he added.

Friday's bombing came days after authorities asked police to remain on maximum alert, saying militants could target rallies for Mawlid an-Nabi.

Also Friday, a blast ripped through a mosque located on the premises of a police station in Hangu, a district in the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, killing at least two people and wounding seven, said Shah Raz Khan, a local police officer.

30 dead, 90 wounded in train derailment in Pakistan
Rescue workers and army troops take in a rescue operation at the site of train derailed in Pakistan.

30 dead, 90 wounded in train derailment in Pakistan

Railway officials said 10 cars derailed near the Pakistani town of Nawabshah, which is located in the southern region of the country.


He said the mud-brick mosque collapsed because of the impact of the blast and rescuers were pulling worshippers from the rubble. Police say it was not immediately clear what caused the blast.

No one claimed responsibility for the blast in Hangu, and the cause was unclear. About 40 people were praying at the mosque at the time, most of them police officers.

Pakistan's President Arif Alvi condemned the attacks and asked authorities to provide all possible assistance to the wounded and the victims' families.

In a statement, caretaker Interior Minister Sarfraz Bugti denounced the bombing, calling it a "heinous act" to target people in the Mawlid an-Nabi procession.

The government had declared Friday a national holiday. President Alvi and caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul-haq-Kakar in separate messages had called for unity and for people to adhere to the teachings of Islam's prophet.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for Friday's bombing, but Pakistani Taliban quickly distanced themselves from it. Known at Tehreek-e-Taliban, or TTP, the Pakistani Taliban is separate from the Afghan Taliban but closely allied to the group which seized power in neighboring Afghanistan in August 2021 as U.S. and NATO troops were in the final stages of their pullout from the country after 20 years of war.

The Islamic State group has claimed previous deadly attacks in Baluchistan and elsewhere.

Also Friday, the military said two soldiers were killed in a shootout with Pakistani Taliban after insurgents tried to sneak into southwestern district of Zhob in Baluchistan province. Three militants were killed in the exchange, a military statement said.

The gas-rich southwestern Baluchistan province at the border of Afghanistan and Iran has been the site of a low-level insurgency by Baluch nationalists for more than two decades. Baluch nationalists initially wanted a share of provincial resources, but they later launched an insurgency calling for independence.

Friday's bombing was one of the worst in Pakistan in the last decade. In 2014, 147 people, mostly schoolchildren, were killed in a Taliban attack on an army-run school in the northwestern city of Peshawar.

In February, more than 100 people, mostly policemen, died in a bombing at a mosque inside a high-security compound housing Peshawar police headquarters. In January, 74 people were killed in a bombing at a mosque in Peshawar. And in July, at least 54 people were killed when a suicide bomber dispatched by an Afghan branch of the Islamic State group targeted an election rally by a pro-Taliban party in northwest Pakistan.