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Pakistan launches aggressive crackdown after Sufi shrine blast, kills 39 terrorists

Pakistan launched a nationwide security crackdown on Friday, officials said, after a bomb ripped through a crowded Sufi shrine killing at least 70 people including 20 children and wounding hundreds. Pakistan security forces killed at least 39 militants in a nationwide crackdown on Friday.

Police had cordoned off the shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar, a 13th century Muslim saint, early Friday as forensic investigators reached the town of Sehwan in Sindh province, some 200 kilometres (124 miles) northeast of financial hub Karachi.

Paramilitary Sindh Rangers said they killed 18 terrorists in overnight operations in the province. Of them, seven were killed in a shootout on a highway near Kathor when the paramilitary troops were returning from Sehwan, where the bombing at the 13th century shrine took place.

Eleven terrorists were killed in Karachi, according to the Rangers.

In the northwestern Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, police said they killed 12 extremists. Three were killed in Peshawar, four in Orakzai tribal region, and another four in an exchange of fire with security forces in Bannu area of the restive province.

According to officials, weapons and hand-grenades were seized from the militants.

Three terrorists were killed in separate incidents in tribal regions of Khurram and Mohmand districts, an official said, adding a security personnel was killed in the clash.

In Balochistan, two terrorist were killed in a shootout with security forces in the provincial capital Quetta. Another two were killed in Sargodha district of Punjab province.

Other militants were killed in raids across the country.

Official said the crackdown would be intensified in the coming days as government has resolved to eliminate militancy.

“After the string of terrorist attacks in the country in the past week, the government and military are on one page and the crackdown was ordered,” a top government official said.

Pakistan army began an operation in Shalman area near the Pakistan-Afghan border, using heavy artillery fire, reports said. The border with Afghanistan at Torkham has been shut.

The crackdown was launched simultaneously by the federal and provincial governments after at least eight terror attacks rocked Pakistan over the week, killing dozens.

Pakistan has seen a dramatic improvement in security recently, but the apparently coordinated series of attacks this week — most claimed by the umbrella Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), or Pakistani Taliban — has shaken the increasing confidence.

The push against extremism was stepped up after the country’s deadliest ever attack, a TTP assault on a school in Peshawar in 2014 which left more than 150 people dead — mostly children.

But critics have long argued the military and government crackdown does not address the root causes of extremism, and groups such as the TTP and increasingly Islamic State can still carry out spectacular attacks.

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