LAHORE: The police arrested six more people suspected to be involved in the killing of a middle-aged man for allegedly desecrating the Quran inside a mosque in Khanewal.
With the latest arrests, the number of primary suspects in custody has risen to 21, while a total of 102 people have been arrested so far and are being interrogated, a spokesperson for Punjab police said in a statement Monday.
An enraged mob stoned to death Mushtaq Ahmed, 41, in a remote village of Khanewal district. Three police officers also were injured, and more than 80 men have been detained.
The mosque’s custodian said he saw the man burning the holy book and told others before informing the police, according to police spokesman Chaudhry Imran.
The violence took place Saturday evening.
Imran said police rushed to the mosque and found the man surrounded by an angry crowd. Sub-Inspector Mohammad Iqbal and two subordinates tried to take custody of the man but the group began throwing stones at them, seriously injuring Iqbal and slightly injuring the other two officers.
Munawar Gujjar, chief of Tulamba police station, said he rushed reinforcements to the mosque but they did not arrive before the mob had stoned to death the man and hung his body from a tree.
Gujjar said the victim belonged to a nearby village.
“The ill-fated man has been mentally unstable for the last 15 years and according to his family often went missing from home for days begging and eating whatever he could find,” he said. He said the body was handed to the family.
Prime Minister Imran Khan expressed his anguish over the stoning and said he was seeking a report from Punjab’s chief minister on the police handling of the case. He said they “failed in their duty.”
“We have zero tolerance for anyone taking the law into their own hands and mob lynching will be dealt with with the full severity of the law,” he said in a tweet hours after the incident.
The killing comes months after the lynching of a Sri Lankan manager of a sporting goods factory in Sialkot on December 3 who was accused by workers of blasphemy.