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Mob sets fire to factory in Pakistan over blasphemy charge

Hundreds of people surrounded a chipboard factory in Pakistan and set it ablaze after police arrested an employee accused of blasphemy. The man is suspected of burning copies of the Koran.

The alleged blasphemer belongs to the

Ahmadi sect,

police officials in the Punjabi city of Jehlum said on Saturday.

Pakistani authorities consider the Ahmadi to be non-Muslim, and the community is often targeted in violent attacks, due to their belief that Muhammad was not the last Islamic prophet.

Several Ahmadi homes and one of their mosques near Jehlum were also torched in the wave of violence that started with the factory fire, according to the police.

"The incident took place after we arrested the head of security at the factory, Qamar Ahmed Tahir, for complaints that he ordered the burning of Korans," Adnan Malik, a senior police official in the region, told the AFP news agency.

The police suspects Tahir of overseeing the burning of the books in the factory's boiler. The officials also confiscated burnt material, including copies of the Koran, according to Malik.

The government sent in troops to patrol the area following the attacks on Friday and Saturday. There were no immediate reports on injuries.

Ahmadi under pressure

The police also reportedly arrested two more members of the Ahmadi sect on blasphemy charges.

Blasphemy is an extremely sensitive issue in Muslim-dominated Pakistan, with suspects facing

serious penalties and even a possible death sentence.

Although the country's blasphemy laws theoretically offer equal protection to all religions, they are most commonly used in Islam-related cases.

The Ahmadi face growing intolerance in Pakistan, with 11 members of the group killed during 2014, according to a report. None of the killers have been arrested so far.

dj/gsw (AFP, KNA)

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