Pakistani police charge 23 people accused of killing a blasphemy suspect

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Police in Pakistan have arrested 23 people accused of being part of a mob that killed a man suspected of desecrating the Quran, Islam’s holy book, officials said Monday.

The suspects were charged with murder and burning a police station in Madyan, a tourist destination in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in northwestern Pakistan, where the mob killed the man on Thursday and burned his body.

Police initially identified the slain man as Mohammad Ismail, but on Monday said after an investigation that they have concluded his name was Mohammad Salman. They said his family has not yet contacted police to receive his body.

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There was no official statement from police in Punjab, where the man lived. However, Salman’s mother said in a brief video statement that her son was a drug addict and used to beat her, and she had expelled him from their home because of his violent behavior. She said she was a Muslim and her family was not responsible for any wrongful acts by Salman.

In Madyan, regional police chief Mohammad Ali Gandapur said on Monday that officers have arrested 23 suspects and more raids were underway as part of efforts to detain all those involved in Salman's killing.

Salman was staying at a hotel in Madyan when a mob accused him of blasphemy.

Authorities say he was taken into custody on Thursday for his protection and was being questioned by police when a mob gathered outside the Madyan police station demanding he be handed over to them so they could immediately punish him for allegedly burning pages from the Quran.

According to police and government officials, police officers tried to assure the mob that Salman would face trial if he had committed blasphemy, but the enraged mob refused to accept the assurances and attacked the police station, wounding some officers.

The mob snatched the man and killed him publicly and burned his body. Blasphemy accusations are common in Pakistan. Under the country’s blasphemy laws, anyone found guilty of insulting Islam or Islamic religious figures can be sentenced to death. While authorities have yet to carry out a death sentence for blasphemy, accusations can cause riots and incite mobs to violence.

Last month, a mob in Pakistan’s eastern Punjab province attacked a 72-year-old Christian man after accusing him of desecrating pages of the Quran. He later died at a hospital.

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