QUETTA, Pakistan (Reuters) - A suicide bombing at a shrine in southwest Pakistan killed 18 people and wounded more than 30 on Thursday in the latest sectarian attack in Baluchistan province, authorities said.
Minority Islamic groups in the province are routinely attacked by militant outfits including Islamic State, which has claimed responsibility for several bombings.
A police officer apprehended the bomber at the entrance to the Sufi shrine and was among those killed, but his heroic action reduced the number of casualties, Baluchistan home minister Sarfraz Bugti told Reuters.
Local government official Ahmed Aziz Tarrar said 16 people were killed and over 30 wounded in the blast.
“We have received 16 bodies at the local hospital and many injured. The severely wounded are being moved to other facilities,” district heath official Rukhsani Magsi said.
Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack via its Amaq news service.
The shrine in the district of Jhal Magsi was packed with devotees mourning the death of a local spiritual leader.
Such incidents fuel concern about security for projects in the $57 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a planned transport and energy route from western China to Baluchistan’s deep-water port of Gwadar.
The province has been rocked by violence on two fronts for over a decade. As well as the Taliban and other Sunni Islamist militants, Baluchistan separatists mount attacks on targets linked to the central government.
A suicide bomber killed 52 people and wounded over 100 at a Baluchistan Sufi shrine in November last year, in an attack claimed by Islamic State. In February, IS attacked a Sufi shrine in Pakistan’s southern Sindh province, killing 83 people.
Additional reporting by Saud Mehsud; Writing by Saad Sayeed; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg