Dozens of people were killed and dozens more injured Friday in a suicide bombing in Pakistan's southwestern province of Balochistan as worshippers gathered to celebrate the festival of Eid. Photo by Jamal Taraqai/EPA-EFE
Sept. 29 (UPI) -- A suicide bomb attack in Pakistan's southwestern province of Balochistan on Friday killed at least 52 people and injured more than 50, authorities said.
Officials declared a state of emergency after the blast near a mosque which occurred as Muslim worshippers gathered to join a procession celebrating Eid, the anniversary of the birth of the prophet Muhammad.
Police said the explosion in the city of Mastung, 30 miles south of the provincial capital, Quetta, was a "suicide blast" and that at least one senior police official had been killed.
The police officer died trying to stop the attacker, said Balochistan police chief Abdul Khaliq Sheikh.
The injured were being treated at two area hospitals with those in critical condition in the process of being transferred to Quetta and all hospitals placed on an emergency footing, according to Balochistan's interim Information Minister Jan Achakzai.
He added that rescue teams had been also dispatched to Mastung.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack but officials appeared to place on blame forces outside of the country.
"The enemy wants to destroy religious tolerance and peace in Balochistan with foreign blessings," Achakzai said. "The explosion is unbearable."
Acting Interior Minister Sarfraz Ahmed Bugti expressed "deep sorrow and regret" over the loss of life in the attack which he said he condemned in the strongest terms.
"The attack on innocent people who came to participate in the Eid Milad-ul-Nabi procession is a very heinous act, terror. These terrorists have no faith or religion," he wrote on social media.
The blast prompted security officials across the country to step up security surrounding events marking Eid, especially around mosques.
Officials in Karachi, the country's largest city, placed police on high alert, ordered a tightening of security measures around Eid and Friday prayers and instructed officers to "closely monitor unusual activities."
Authorities in Punjab, 500 miles away in the west of the country, also pledged to do their utmost to keep worshippers safe.
"Diligent officials of Punjab Police are performing security duties at mosques for Friday prayers across the province," Punjab security authorities said in a Twitter post.
At least 133 people have been killed and more than 200 injured in gun and bomb attacks in and around Mastung in the past five years.