Pakistan police guard Christian colony after mob attack over 'blasphemy'

Police were guarding a Christian neighbourhood in central Pakistan on Thursday, after hundreds of Muslim men rampaged through its streets setting fire to churches and ransacking homes over accusations of blasphemy a day earlier.

The violence broke out in Jaranwala, on the outskirts of the industrial city of Faisalabad, after allegations spread that Christians had desecrated the Quran, forcing families to flee their homes.

A spokesperson for the Punjab provincial government said late Wednesday that more than 100 people were arrested, with police also seeking to arrest the people accused of defiling the Muslim holy book.

"The desecration of the Holy Quran has been made and emotions of the Muslims have been injured. An order has been issued for the arrest of the accused," a statement said.

Images on social media showed crowds of hundreds armed with sticks and rocks storming through the streets, with smoke rising from church buildings.

Yasir Bhatti, a 31-year-old Christian, fled his home in a narrow alley next to one of the churches that was ransacked by the mob.

"They broke the windows, doors and took out fridges, sofas, chairs and other household items to pile them up in front of the church to be burnt. They also burnt and desecrated Bibles, they were ruthless," he told AFP by phone.

In one video, crowds cheer and demand punishment for the accused blasphemers as a cross is torn from the top of a church.

The boundary walls of a Christian cemetery were vandalised, police said.

"The crowd inflicted heavy damage on the area including to homes of Christians, and many churches," Ahad Noor, a government official, told AFP.

Local Muslim leaders used mosque loudspeakers to urge their followers to...

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