Lahore: At least 41 people were killed and 115 injured when two suicide bombers struck a crowded Sufi shrine near Dera Ghazi Khan in Pakistan's Punjab province on Sunday. This is the latest in a series of attacks targeting religious sites.

The first bomber blew himself up near the entrance of Sakhi Sarwar Darbar, a shrine dedicated to 13th century saint Syed Ahmad Sultan.

The second bomber struck a security check post outside the shrine, which is located 30 km from Dera Ghazi Khan, police officials and witnesses said.

Regional police chief Ahmed Mubarak confirmed the attack was carried out by two suicide attackers and dismissed earlier reports that there were three blasts at the shrine.

He told the media that two would-be suicide bombers were arrested at the shrine.

One of the arrested men was injured, he said.

Mubarak identified one of the arrested men as Fida Hussain and said he was a resident of Dera Ismail Khan with links to the Afghan Taliban.

Rescue officials said they had removed 41 bodies from the site. A total of 115 people were injured, including 25 who were in a serious condition, they said.

The injured were taken to hospitals in Dera Ghazi Khan, Multan and other nearby cities.

Thousands of people were attending the annual 'urs' or festival of the shrine located in the Sulaiman mountain range when the bombers struck.

Four children and several women were among the dead, officials said.  The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.

Taliban spokesman Ahsanullah Ahsan told the media that his group had carried out the attack in retaliation for military operations against militants in northwest Pakistan.

He warned that the Taliban would carry out more such attacks. The blasts caused panic among people at the shrine.

Witnesses said they had seen body parts and pools of blood near the entrance of the shrine.

The Taliban consider the practice of visiting and praying at Sufi shrines as "un-Islamic" and have targeted shrines across Pakistan over the past few years.

Scores have been killed in recent suicide attacks on Sufi shrines, including Data Darbar in Lahore, the shrine of Baba Farid at Pakpattan and the shrine of Abdullah Shah Ghazi in Karachi.

President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani condemned the attack on Sakhi Sarwar shrine and said such acts of terrorism would not deter the government's resolve to fight terrorism and militancy to the end.

Zardari said in a message that attack on a religious place and targeting of devotees "clearly shows that terrorists have no respect or consideration for any religion and faith."

Gilani said the killing of innocent and helpless people "exhibits the mindset of a coward and the evil nature of terrorists."

Such violent acts seem to be a conspiracy to divide society, he said.

(Agencies)