Authorities in Pakistan have launched a probe and arrested at least 146 people in the Punjab province a day after a Muslim mob torched five churches and attacked dozens of houses belonging to the local Christian community over claims of blasphemy, the province’s top police official has told Al Jazeera.
“We are continuing our operations to detain others involved,” Inspector General of Punjab Police Usman Anwar said on Thursday, a day after hundreds of people went on a rampage attacking Christian properties and places of worship in Jaranwala city in Faisalabad district – about 115 kilometers (71 miles) southwest of the provincial capital, Lahore.
Local reports said torn pages of the Quran, with alleged blasphemous content written on them, were discovered near Jaranwala’s Isa Nagri (Christian colony) area, triggering one of the worst spells of violence against the minority community in recent years.
The Salvation Army Church in Jaranwala was among the five churches vandalized. Videos on social media showed a handful of men on the roof of the church, the largest in the city, attacking its front facade and attempting to dislodge the cross on top. Some of the purported videos on X showed police officials standing amid the crowd of onlookers as the attackers continued vandalizing the churches.
Houses, businesses and graveyards belonging to the Christian community were also targeted as violence gripped the city of 230,000.
Thousands of additional police and paramilitary troops have been deployed to control the violence in the South Asian nation, which has been facing an unprecedented political and economic crisis.
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