Sept 29 (Al Jazeera) – The death toll from a suspected suicide bomb blast at a procession to celebrate the birthday of Prophet Muhammad in Pakistan’s Balochistan province has climbed to over 50, officials and media reports say.
The powerful bomb exploded on Friday at a rally in Mastung district of Balochistan, wounding at least 100 others, including dozens in critical condition, media reports said.
“It seems a suicide attack” senior local police officer Javed Lehri, adding that the bomber blew himself up near the vehicle of Deputy Superintendent of Police Nawaz Gishkori.
Balochistan’s government administrator Atta Ullah said a senior police officer, Mohammad Nawaz, was among the dead. The injured were taken to nearby hospitals, he said.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack yet.
The country’s interior ministry confirmed a blast carried out by “terrorist elements” in Balochistan.
“The attack on innocent people who came to participate in the procession of Eid Milad-ul-Nabi is a very heinous act,” it said in a statement, referring to the prophet’s birthday.
Friday’s bombing came days after authorities asked police to remain on maximum alert as armed groups could target rallies making the occasion.
Muslims in Pakistan and around the world celebrate the birthday of Islam’s prophet by holding public gatherings.
While the celebration is accepted by a majority of Islamic sects, certain denominations view it as an unwarranted innovation.
Balochistan has in the past been the site of attacks by armed groups.
Earlier this month, at least 11 people, including a prominent religious leader, were injured in a blast in the same district, the Dawn newspaper said.
The gas-rich Balochistan province at the border of Afghanistan and Iran has been the site of a low-intensity rebellion by Baloch separatists for more than two decades.
The separatists initially wanted a share of the provincial resources, but later launched a movement calling for independence.