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Scores killed in two separate blasts targeting mosques in Pakistan

A scene of rescuers transferring victims in a bombing attack targeting a religious celebration near a mosque on Alfalah Road in Mastung, Balochistan, September 29, 2023. (Photo by DAWN)

At least 52 people have been killed and more than 80 people injured in an explosion in Pakistan’s southwestern province of Balochistan, according to local officials.

The blast took place near a mosque in Mastung city on Friday as people were gathering to celebrate the birthday anniversary of Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon Him), local assistant commissioner Attahul Munim told local media.

Mastung's deputy superintendent of police (DSP) Nawaz Gashkori, who was present in the rally, was also killed.

Other officials said the explosion was a “suicide blast” and that the bomber exploded himself next to DSP's car. They said the wounded were being shifted to hospitals and medical facilities.

The death toll is expected to rise as some of the injured are in critical condition.

Hours after the blast in Balochistan province, another blast ripped through a mosque in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province which also borders Afghanistan, killing at least two people.

The mosque's roof collapsed in the blast, leaving about 30 to 40 people trapped under the rubble, local broadcaster Geo News reported.

Pakistani officials condemned the attacks, blaming the move on enemies wanting to sow discord in the region.

“The enemy wants to destroy religious tolerance and peace in Balochistan with foreign blessings,” Balochistan interim information minister Jan Achakzai said. “The explosion is unbearable.”

Achakzai said caretaker chief minister Ali Mardan Domki has ordered security forces to arrest those responsible for the blast. No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack.

Pakistan’s caretaker interior minister, Sarfraz Ahmed Bugti, also condemned the blast, stating that "terrorists have no faith or religion”. He said all the resources were mobilized for the rescue operation.

Iran condemned the acts of terrorism, as it offered condolences to the government and people of Pakistan, especially the survivors of the victims, and prayed for the speedy recovery of the injured.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kana’ani said the attacks are “a clear example of terrorists' aloofness from the merciful teachings of the Prophet of Islam”.

Over the past few months, Mastung has been the scene of frequent acts of violence linked to nationalists and separatists.

Earlier this month, at least 11 people, including religious leader Hafiz Hamdullah, were injured in a blast in the same district. Before that, a tax official was gunned down at a bus stand by unidentified men who also wounded two bystanders.

In May, a polio vaccination team was targeted in the Killi Sour Karez area on the outskirts of Mastung, killing its policeman escort.

Moreover, three people were killed and six others injured last year in a bomb attack targeting two vehicles in the mountainous area of Qabu in Mastung.

Back in 2018, at least 128 people, including politician Nawabzada Siraj Raisani, were killed and more than 200 were injured in a bombing attack in the same district.

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