August 2, 2009 in Nation/World

Pakistani Muslims attack, kill Christians

Asif Shahzad Associated Press
 

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – Hundreds of rioting Muslims attacked Christians in eastern Pakistan on Saturday, burning and looting homes in a rampage that killed six Christians, including a child, and wounded 10 others in the latest violence against minorities in the conservative Muslim country.

The unrest started late Thursday, when members of a banned extremist Muslim organization began torching Christian homes in a village in the Punjabi city of Gojra after allegations that a Quran had been defaced, Federal Minister for Minorities Shahbaz Bhatti said.

Violence flared again Saturday, when shots were fired on a peaceful Muslim rally passing by a Christian neighborhood, said local minister Dost Mohammad Khosa. It remained unclear who fired the shots, he added.

“That made things worse. We are sure some miscreant elements have tried to exploit the situation,” he said.

Television footage showed baton-wielding crowds running through the streets, blocking traffic and a railway line. Ransacked furniture lay outside blackened and burning homes, while a group of people rushed a man with burn injuries on a wooden hand-pulled cart through the streets. Gunfire rang out.

Authorities said the six people killed included a child and four women, while Bhatti said about 40 Christian homes had been burned since Thursday.

Kamran Michael, provincial minister for minorities, said the situation remained tense into the night, although police had dispersed the mob. He said negotiations were under way between government officials, representatives from the minority community and the villagers.

Michael said he feared the death toll could rise as crews cleared the debris of burned houses.

© Copyright 2009 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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