Rampaging Muslims in Pakistan riot and kill Christians, burn houses
Posted by jagoindia on August 5, 2009
A child and four women are among at least eight Christians killed after 40 houses and a church were set ablaze amid riots with Muslims in eastern Pakistan, officials have said.
Dozens of people were also injured in the violence in Pakistan’s Gojra village, which erupted after allegations surfaced that a Quran had been defiled, the officials said on Saturday.
“Six Christians including a child were killed and more than a dozen were injured in this sad incident,” Shahbaz Bhatti, a federal minister of minorities, told the AFP news agency by telephone.
“Some people blamed the Christians for the desecration of the holy Quran,” he said adding that the accusations were “baseless”.
Mohammad Saleem, a correspondent for The Dawn newspaper in Pakistan, told Al Jazeera: “The clashes erupted when a boy of a Christian community allegedly desecrated a few pages of the holy Quran.
“The Christians said the Muslims were in a mood to attack the locality.”
Police said that unrest between the two groups of villagers first flared late last month over a dispute over the Muslim holy book, which was later resolved.
But tensions erupted on Saturday when the Christian group were attacked again and their houses set on fire.
“Today, according to our information … this is the same issue of alleged desecration of the Quran,” Inkisar Khan, the city police chief, told reporters.
“All the dead are Christians. I was told that they were burned alive.”
Television footage from the area showed police using tear gas to disperse an angry mob.
Desecrating the Quran is punishable by death under the blasphemy laws of mainly Muslim Pakistan, but no such sentences have been carried out.
Christians, who make up less than three per cent of Pakistan’s population of 150 million, say the blasphemy laws are used as an excuse to victimise them.
6 Christians Killed in Pakistan Violence
By VOA News
01 August 2009
Authorities say six Christians, including four women and a child, have been killed in clashes with Muslims in Pakistan’s eastern province of Punjab.
The provincial minister for minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti, said a group of radical Muslims burned the homes of Christians in the city of Gojra Saturday, after accusing them of desecrating Islam’s holy book, the Koran.
Bhatti said there was no truth to the allegations.
Television footage from the scene showed houses burning and streets strewn with blackened debris. There were also reports of gunfights.
Provincial officials urged both the Muslim and Christian communities to show restraint.
Elsewhere, police said Saturday they had arrested a member of an al-Qaida linked group, suspected of involvement in several attacks including last year’s suicide bombing of Islamabad’s Marriott Hotel.
Authorities detained Rao Shakir, a suspected member of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, on the outskirts of Islamabad this week.
In other news, schools in Pakistan’s northwest re-opened Saturday, for the first time in three months.
Schools were closed during intense fighting between Taliban militants and the Pakistan military that erupted after the collapse of a peace deal.
The students said Saturday they were happy to be back in class, although many were still absent. Most of the nearly two million people who fled the fighting have yet to return to the area, which includes Swat Valley, Lower and Upper Dir and other areas of Malakand district.
The militants, who fought to impose strict Islamic law (Sharia) in parts of northwest Pakistan, targeted schools, especially those that taught girls. More than 350 schools were damaged or destroyed.
Students from the damaged schools learned lessons in tents Saturday.
Pakistan’s government began allowing the displaced to return, after saying it had cleared parts of the northwest of Taliban militants.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.