Shrine keeper, aides kill 20 people in Pakistan | Asia| An in-depth look at news from across the continent | DW | 02.04.2017
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Shrine keeper, aides kill 20 people in Pakistan

A custodian of a small shrine has killed at least 20 worshipers after intoxicating them, according to Pakistani police. The authorities said that three of his aides were also involved in the murders.

The suspect allegedly invited his victims inside the Sufi shrine one by one, offered them an intoxicating substance, removed their clothes and killed them with the help of his associates, police said on Sunday. Four people were still in critical condition after 20 people were murdered near the city of Sargodha in eastern Pakistan.

"The 50-year-old shrine custodian Abdul Waheed has confessed that he killed these people because he feared that they had come to kill him," regional police chief Zulfiqar Hameed told the AFP news agency.

The police arrested Waheed and three of his aides.

According to preliminary information, the custodian had gathered a following of people who would regularly visit the shrine and subject themselves to beatings and torture for spiritual "cleansing."

"Local people say that Waheed used to beat the visitors who came to him for treatment of various physical or spiritual ailments," rescue service official Mazhar Shah told reporters in televised comments. "Sometimes he would remove the clothes of his visitors and burn them."

Club and dagger wounds

Local police said that Waheed served as a custodian of the shrine after it was completed some two and a half years. He was a retired government employee who at one time worked for the national electoral commission.

Most of the dead were hit on the back of the neck, according to doctor Pervaiz Haider from the Sargodha hospital.

"There are bruises and wounds inflicted by a club and dagger on the bodies of victims," he told Reuters news agency.

Shrines to Sufi Muslim mystics draw thousands of worshipers each year. Some hardliner factions, including the Taliban and the self-styled "Islamic Sate" militia, have organized attacks on the sanctuaries because they believe them to be heretical. At least 70 people were killed in the bombing of a Sufi shrine earlier this year.

dj/sms (dpa, AFP, AP)

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