Pakistan’s minority Christian community attacked after blasphemy accusation

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At least five members of a minority Christian community were rescued on Saturday after a Muslim crowd attacked their settlement in eastern Pakistan, police and a community leader said.

The crowd, which accused the Christian group of blasphemy, hurled stones and bricks at the police, said Shariq Kamal, the police chief of Sargodha district.

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A large contingent of police cordoned off the settlement, he said, adding that the crowd had been pushed back and five injured Christians had been taken to hospital.

At least one house and a small shoe factory was set on fire by protesters who had gathered after neighbors alleged that the Muslim holy book, the Quran, had been desecrated by a minority community member, according to a police spokesman and Akmal Bhatti, a Christian leader.

“They burned one house and lynched several Christians,” Bhatti aid.

Videos posted on social media showed protesters looting items from burning properties. Others were seen throwing the items in a heap on fire in a street.

Bhatti said the videos were images from the scene.

Reuters could not independently verify the pictures.

The independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said the Christian community was “at grave risk to their lives at the hands of the charged mobs.”

Blasphemy is a sensitive subject in conservative Muslim-majority Pakistan, where just an accusation can lead to a street lynching.

Human rights groups say Pakistan’s harsh blasphemy laws are often misused to settle personal scores.

While blasphemy is punishable by death in Pakistan, no one has been executed by the state for it, though numerous accused have been lynched by outraged mobs.

A Muslim crowd attacked a Christian community in eastern Pakistan last year, vandalizing several churches and setting scores of houses on fire after accusing two of its members of desecrating the Quran.

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