Pakistani forces killed and arrested dozens of suspects in sweeping raids as the death toll from a massive suicide bombing by the Islamic State group that targeted a famed Sufi shrine the day before rose to 88 on Friday.
The terror attack — Pakistan's deadliest in years — stunned the nation and raised questions about the authorities' ability to rein in militant groups despite several military offensives targeting militant hideouts.
It also threatened to drive a deeper wedge between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Islamabad quickly lashed out at Kabul, saying the bombing was masterminded in militant sanctuaries across the border in Afghanistan.
Underscoring tensions, Pakistan fired a blistering round of artillery shells into Afghan territory on Friday and shut down the Torkham border crossing, a key commercial artery between the two neighbours.
Afghan police chief Gul Agha Roohani in eastern Nangarhar province told The Associated Press the artillery assault began on Friday morning, although there was no immediate confirmation from Pakistan.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani condemned the shrine attack. "Sufis always preach peace and brotherhood among people," he said in a statement, adding added that "terrorists once again proved that they have no respect for Islamic values."
Meanwhile, raids overnight across Pakistan targeted militant hideouts and led to shootouts with insurgents that left at least 39 suspects dead, according to three Pakistani security officials who spoke on condition of anonymity under regulations.
Most of the operations were carried out by the paramilitary Rangers. In one raid, troops killed 11 suspects at a militant hideout in the port city of Karachi. In another, the Rangers came under fire as they were returning from Sehwan, the town in southern Sindh province where the shrine bombing took place, and killed seven of the attackers.
Other raids took place in northwestern Pakistan and also in the eastern province of Punjab. The officials said a total of 47 suspects were arrested.
In Thursday's attack, the suicide bomber walked into the main hall at the Lal Shahbaz Qalandar shrine in Sehwan, and detonated his explosives among a crowd of worshippers, initially killing 75. At least 20 women and nine children were among the dead.
On Friday, authorities raised the death toll to 88 after some of the critically wounded died. The Sindh provincial health department said a total of 343 people were wounded in the attack but that most were discharged after treatment while 76 still remain in hospitals.