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Christian homes torched by Pakistani mob

Dozens of Christian homes were torched by a mob of hundreds in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore on Saturday, after a Christian man was accused of blaspheming the Prophet Mohammad.

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A few members of a mob of hundreds react after burning belongings of Christian families, in Lahore, Pakistan, Saturday, March 9. The mob attacked a Christian neighborhood Saturday and set fire to homes after hearing accusations that a Christian man had committed blasphemy against Islam's prophet, said a police officer.

K.M. Chaudary/AP

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Hundreds of people in eastern Pakistan rampaged through a Christian neighborhood Saturday, torching dozens of homes after hearing reports that a Christian man had committed blasphemy against Islam's prophet.

Blasphemy is a serious crime in Pakistan that can carry the death penalty, but sometimes outraged residents exact their own retribution for perceived insults of Islam's Prophet Muhammad. Pakistan is overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim and people of other faiths, including the nation's small Christian community, are often viewed with suspicion.

The incident started Friday when a young Muslim man accused a Christian man of committing blasphemy by making offensive comments about the prophet, according to Multan Khan, a senior police officer in Lahore. A large crowd from a nearby mosque went to the Christian man's home on Friday night, said Khan. Police registered a blasphemy case against the man after the crowd gathered and demanded action, the officer said.

Fearing for their safety, hundreds of Christian families fled the area overnight.

Khan said the mob returned on Saturday and began ransacking Christian homes and setting them ablaze. He said no one in the Christian community was hurt, but several policemen were injured when they were hit with stones as they tried to keep the crowd from storming the area.

But Akram Gill, a local bishop in the Lahore Christian community said the incident had more to do with personal enmity between two men — one Christian and one Muslim — than blasphemy. He said the men got into a brawl after drinking late one night, and in the morning the Muslim man made up the blasphemy story as payback.

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