QUETTA/KHUZDAR: Even as army personnel and teams from other organisations and departments completed their rescue operation at the Shah Noorani shrine, which was hit by a devastating suicide attack the previous day, Balochistan Chief Minister Nawab Sanaullah Zehri ordered its closure until proper security arrangements were made at the religious site. The militant Islamic State (IS) group claimed responsibility for the attack and posted on the internet the photograph of a boy who it said carried out the attack. Army men, personnel of the Frontier Corps (FC), Balochistan, and workers and volunteers of government departments and charities participated in the rescue operation and shifted dead bodies and the injured to the Jam Ghulam Qadir Civil Hospital in Hub, from where they were moved to Karachi.
Officials of the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said that army personnel were moved from the Khuzdar cantonment to the shrine to take part in the operation. Several army ambulances were also pressed into service for the purpose. “Army helicopters were ready to take part in the operation but due to darkness and non-availability of a suitable place for use as a helipad, they could not fly out to the shrine,” they said. They, however, said the army provided all the available resources and facilities for transportation of the dead and injured to Hub and Karachi and medical treatment of the wounded. “Army doctors provided treatment to the injured in the blast,” a senior officer said. After reviewing the security arrangements at the shrine during a high-level meeting, Chief Minister Zehri ordered that it be closed to visitors so that foolproof arrangements could be made there.
“The CCTV cameras will be installed, a boundary wall will be built and check-posts of law enforcement agencies shall be set up along the route to the shrine,” he said at the meeting. During his visit to the religious site, the inspector general of FC Balochistan, Maj Gen Sher Afgun, directed the officials and personnel concerned to beef up security in the area. He also asked them to launch a search operation to trace the whereabouts of those responsible for the attack. The shrine is in the Wadh tehsil of Khuzdar district but it is located in a remote, sparsely populated and mountainous area. People, mostly from Punjab and Karachi, visit the Shah Noorani shrine every Saturday as traditional dhamaal is held there in the night. Official sources said that banned and other militant organisations had considerable footprints in Khuzdar, Awaran and the nearby areas.
“Recently, the chief of a banned militant organisation was killed in a gun battle in the Hub area of Lasbela district. This organisation has contacts with IS, whose presence in Balochistan cannot be ruled out,” they said. They added that the attack on the shrine could be a fallout of killing of the militant group’s chief. The sources said that several suspects had been held during a search operation in the area and that they were being interrogated. They said the authorities had instructed the security forces to launch an operation to rid the area of terrorists and militants. The commissioner of Kalat division, Mohammad Hashim Ghalzai, said the suicide bomber blew himself up when hundreds of devotees were performing dhamaal in the courtyard of the shrine. During a visit to the Civil Hospital, Karachi, where he inquired after condition of the injured, Chief Minister Zehri announced compensation to the affected families. He said each family that had lost a loved one would be given Rs1 million and Rs500,000 would be given to each of the injured.