Skip to comments.Child Slayings Spread Terror in Pakistan
Posted on 04/30/2004 1:29:26 AM PDT by me_newswire
When the 5-year-old boy ran home bleeding and weeping, his family first thought he had injured himself in a fall.
At the doctor, they discovered Zainul Abideen had been stabbed, with wounds to the chest and abdomen requiring 20 stitches. Now they believe the boy was attacked by a serial killer targeting young children in this small town, where three children have been knifed to death in the past three weeks.
Police say the slayings could be part of a black magic rite and have arrested about 20 suspects. One confessed to the first three assaults, including stabbing Zainul. Then, another child was murdered while that suspect was in custody, leading police to believe the man has accomplices at large or gave a false confession.
Such acts of random violence are rare in Pakistan, a deeply religious society where most killings are the result of family or land feuds. Failure to stop the slayings has triggered protests against police, and one resident was killed by police gunfire during the unrest.
Compounding the horror, the latest two killings happened on consecutive Fridays, the holiest day of the week in this overwhelmingly Islamic country.
Amid the climate of fear, life in Muridke, a town of 50,000 people about 20 miles outside the eastern city of Lahore, is near paralyzed. School attendance is down and the streets of simple mud-brick houses and shops are empty of children.
Zainul Abideen is still apparently terrified from the attack. The boy played contentedly recently in his family's yard but recoiled in fear when beckoned outside.
"No, no," he muttered, reaching for his mother.
Asked who stabbed him, the child pointed to the dusty street and said only: "He was a boy. He was a boy."
Zainul was assaulted April 12, apparently the attacker's first attempt to kill. The next day, 7-year-old Tehmina Riaz was stabbed on her way to school. She was found just two streets away from where Zainul said he was attacked, wounds all over her body from a sharp implement.
She died the next day. While in the hospital, the girl said her attacker was a young man wearing a traditional white tunic, according to her father, Muhammad Riaz, a 28-year-old laborer.
He said his daughter also described the attacker as leaving her with a terrifying message: "If people ask you about me, tell them that I am a devil. Tell them that it (the killings) is the job of devils."
The next killing was on April 16: 8-year-old Ramzan Ali was found dead in a deserted house under construction, also with multiple stab wounds.
"It was the biggest cruelty I ever saw. My life is shattered," said his father, Muhammad Arif, 48, a barber.
Anger boiled over in the town with the second killing.
Claiming police had freed three suspects, protesters blocked a main road for hours, and beat up and held hostage several police officers. Police opened fire and killed one protester.
Chief investigator Tariq Qureshi told The Associated Press that "some two dozen" people are in custody - some for the protests but most in connection with the child killings. He also said police were focusing on three main suspects, including the one who confessed. He said he had taught black magic to the other two.
Hafiz Muhammad Arshad, 26, confessed to "losing his senses" and being driven by "evil forces" to commit the murders. The chief investigator said bones of pigs and cows and other material associated with black magic were found in Arshad's house, which is in the neighborhood of the killings.
But on April 23, a killer struck again while townspeople were at Friday prayers. Six-year-old Tehseen Amjad was slain in a similar fashion to the other children, his body found about a quarter-mile from the previous attacks.
The case has resurrected memories of Javed Iqbal, who confessed to sexually abusing and killing more than 100 children in Lahore and disposing of their dismembered bodies in acid baths at his home. He was condemned to death but committed suicide in his jail cell in October 2001.
Extra police on the streets of Muridke have done little to reassure the town.
"Our parents have warned us not to spend our time in streets and remain indoors," said 10-year old Hasan Raza. "We know that a knifeman is roaming in the area. A devil is out there."