A woman and her two granddaughters belonging to the Ahmadi Muslim minority neighbourhood in Pakistan have died from suffocation after their house was burned down, following an alleged blasphemous post on Facebook of a fellow sect member.
The incident occurred on Sunday in Gujranwala city. The fatalities were a grandmother and her two grandchildren, aged seven years old and the other still a baby. Another woman miscarried during the violence.
Ahmadis are Muslims but believe in a prophet after Mohammed, the self-proclaimed Ghulam Ahmad, born in 1835. In 1984, a Pakistani law declared them non-Muslims. They are banned joining the annual Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca. They are not allowed to use Muslim greetings, say Muslim prayers or claim as mosque their places of worship. Many Pakistanis consider the Ahmadis as heretics.
Police reported the violence started when two young men, one of whom was an Ahmadi, began fighting because the latter had allegedly posted "objectionable material" on Facebook.
"An Ahmadi boy, Aqib Salim, aged 17, who belongs to a lower middle-class family, allegedly posted a blasphemous picture on Facebook, which infuriated his Muslim friend Saddam Hussain," a local police official Salim Akhtar told AFP.
The material allegedly showed the Kaaba, the building at the centre of the Grand Mosque in Mecca that Muslims face in prayer. The mob alleged it contained nudity.
The two young men eventually wrestled on the street in the presence of hundreds of protesters. As the police tried to negotiate with the crowd, another mob had attacked and started burning the houses of Ahmadis.
"A violent mob set fire to five or six houses of the Ahmadi community after they accused the minority members of opening fire on them from the houses," Akhtar said.
The youth accused of posting the objectionable material on Facebook was not harmed.
It was the worst attack on the community since the simultaneous attacks on Ahmadi places of worship four years ago that killed 86 Ahmadis, Salim ud Din, a spokesman for the Ahmadi community, said.
"Police were there but just watching the burning. They didn't do anything to stop the mob," the Daily Mail quoted Salim. "First they looted their homes and shops and then they burnt the homes."
Accusations of blasphemy have risen in Pakistan, from just one incident in 2011 to 68 in 2013, according to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. About 100 people have been accused of blasphemy this year alone.
Video of the burning here.
YouTube/euronews (in English)