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January 27, 2022
A gang descended on a sports equipment factory in Pakistan’s eastern Punjab province on Friday, killing a Sri Lankan man and burning his body publicly over allegations of blasphemy, police said.
Armagan Gondal, a police chief in the district of Sialkot, where the killing occurred, said factory workers had accused the victim of desecrating posters bearing the name of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad.
Police said initial information shows the Sri Lankan, later identified as Priyantha Kumara, a manager at the facility, was killed inside the factory. Videos circulating on social media show the gang dragging his heavily bruised body outside, where they set it alight, surrounded by hundreds of others who cheered on the killers.
In Colombo, Foreign Ministry spokesman Sugeeswara Gunaratne said their embassy in Islamabad was verifying details of the incident with Pakistani authorities. “Sri Lanka expects that the Pakistan authorities will take required action to investigate and ensure justice,” he said.
Hours after the attack, Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Twitter that the “horrific vigilante attack on factory & the burning alive of Sri Lankan manager is a day of shame for Pakistan.” He promised a thorough investigation and said those responsible will be severely punished according to the law.
In a statement, Pakistan’s army chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa denounced the killing, saying the “cold-blooded murder” by a mob in Sialkot was “extremely condemnable and shameful.” Bajwa added, “Such extra-judicial vigilantism cannot be condoned at any cost.”
Amnesty International said in a statement it was “deeply alarmed by the disturbing lynching” of the Sri Lankan factory manager over blasphemy accusations. The rights advocacy group demanded Pakistan conduct an independent and prompt investigation into the incident to hold the perpetrators accountable.
ARTICLE: PAUL MURDOCH
MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: VOA NEWS