20 tortured, killed in Pakistan Sufi shrine: Police

Twenty people are tortured and then murdered with clubs and knives at a Pakistani Sufi shrine, police say, in an attack allegedly carried out by the shrine's custodian and several accomplices.
The Sufi shrine, on the outskirts of Sargodha district in Punjab province, where three suspects, including the shrine's custodian, killed 20 people yesterday, according to the police.
The Sufi shrine, on the outskirts of Sargodha district in Punjab province, where three suspects, including the shrine's custodian, killed 20 people yesterday, according to the police.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LAHORE • Twenty people were tortured and then murdered with clubs and knives at a Pakistani Sufi shrine in an attack purportedly carried out by the shrine's custodian and several accomplices, the police said yesterday.

Four women were among those killed at the Sufi shrine to Mohammad Ali in Punjab province, according to the police, who said they had arrested three suspects, including the custodian.

Four others were wounded during the attack yesterday morning at the shrine on the edge of Sargodha, a remote town in Punjab.

The custodian of the shrine, Mr Abdul Waheed, called on the worshippers to visit the shrine and then he and his accomplices attacked them, said the area's deputy commissioner Liaqat Ali Chattha.

"As they kept arriving, they were torturing and murdering them," he told Geo TV.

Regional police chief Zulfiqar Hameed said the custodian, 50, confessed during interrogation that he killed the people because he feared they had come to kill him.

"The suspect appears to be paranoid and psychotic, or it could be related to rivalry for the control of the shrine," he told Agence France-Presse.

Local police station chief Shamshir Joya said the victims' clothes were torn and bloodstained.

"We suspect that the victims had been given some intoxicants before they were murdered, but we will wait for a forensics report to confirm this," he added.

With its ancient hypnotic rituals, Sufism is a mystical form of Islam practised in Pakistan for centuries.

But, in recent months, Sufi shrines have been targeted by extremist Sunni militants who consider them heretics, including a suicide bombing by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) that killed more than 80 worshippers at a shrine in Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in southern Sindh province.

Last November, an explosion ripped through another Sufi shrine, the Shah Noorani in south-western Pakistan, killing at least 52 people. ISIS also claimed responsibility for that attack.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 03, 2017, with the headline '20 tortured, killed in Pakistan Sufi shrine: Police'. Print Edition | Subscribe