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Deadly blast hits shrine in Pakistan's Balochistan

Officials expect the death toll to rise following the explosion in Jhal Magsi district in central Baluchistan.

Jhal Magsi

A blast at the entrance of a shrine in central Pakistan has killed at least 14 people and wounded more than 20, local officials have said.

The explosion happened on Thursday in Jhal Magsi district in central Baluchistan province.

"The suicide attacker was intercepted at the shrine's main entrance," said Muhammad Iqbal, a local police official.

"He attempted to barge inside the main shrine," Iqbal addd. "Police guards opened fire and some steps away from the gate [the attacker] detonated his explosive."

Dr. Rukhsana Magsi, medical superintendent at the DHQ hospital in Jhal Magsi, said they had received 14 bodies and 22 wounded, including 12 who suffered serious injuries and were being transported to other hospitals.

"Casualties are still arriving," she said.

"The wounds, the serious ones, many people have either lost their hands, some have been hit in their heads with shrapnel," Magsi said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

Pakistan has been battling the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and other armed groups since 2007. Violence has dropped significantly in the past three years, since the launch of a military operation to evict those groups from sanctuaries in the volatile northwestern tribal districts.

Since 2016, however, it has been facing a growing threat of attacks from ISIL, which has claimed responsibility for several suicide attacks, particularly those targeting Sufi shrines such as the one attacked on Thursday.

In November, at least 52 people were killed in an ISIL-claimed suicide bombing at a shrine in the Hub district of Baluchistan, south of Jhal Magsi.

In February, ISIL claimed responsibility for the deadliest attack on Pakistani soil since 2014, in which a shrine in neighbouring Sindh province was targeted, killing 88 people.

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