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Blast hits prophet’s birthday celebration in Pakistan killing at least 20

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ISLAMABAD — At least 20 people were killed and more than 50 injured in a blast targeting a Pakistani procession to mark the birthday of prophet Muhammad on Friday, officials said, cautioning that the death toll was likely to rise.

The attack hit a rally in the district of Mastung in the southwestern Pakistani province of Baluchistan. Jan Achakzai, information minister of the provincial government, said the bombing, which he said killed 20, amounted to one of the worst attacks in recent memory in the province, which is regularly struck by smaller blasts and targeted killings.

He said it was too early to say whether the incident was a suicide bombing, or whether the explosives were hidden on-site. A local police official, who only gave the name Azzam, put the toll higher at 31.

Interim Interior Minister Sarfraz Bugti condemned the “heinous attack” and vowed to “use all resources for rescue and relief operations.”

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack and the Pakistani Taliban, which operates independently from the Afghan Taliban, denied that it was involved.

Pakistani officials have voiced mounting concerns over Pakistani Taliban attacks in recent months, which have primarily targeted police or military. Speaking to local media outlets, a hospital official near the blast confirmed that at least one police officer was among the victims on Friday.

There are also concerns in Pakistan over other groups that have staged recent attacks, including the regional Islamic State branch and Baluchistan separatist groups.

Nawaz Khan reported from Peshawar, Pakistan.

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