Mob kills youths as police look on
Published 23/08/2010 | 12:02
Two teenagers carrying a cricket bag have been beaten to death by a mob in Pakistan who mistook them for thieves.
Their deaths, watched by police who did nothing to intervene, were captured on video footage that has outraged the country.
It shows men taking turns savagely beating the two brothers with sticks, drawing blood before dragging and hanging their bodies from a nearby pole. None of the dozens of people watching tried to stop the attack.
The incident is a blow to the already-shoddy image of the government as it appeals for international aid to cope with disastrous floods.
"Is this what we are? Savages?" asked an editorial in The News, an English-language daily. "So utterly bereft of a speck of humanity that a crowd of ordinary men are passive spectators to public murder?"
The killings happened on August 15 in Sialkot, a town in eastern Punjab province. As details emerged, authorities appear increasingly confident the two boys - Moiz Butt, 17, and his brother Muneeb, 15 - were innocent.
The two went to play cricket after praying and eating breakfast, carrying a bag with them containing game equipment, said Mujahid Sherdil, a top government official in the district. They were sons of a middle-class man who deals in fabric for footballs. Moiz was honoured with the title "hafiz" for having memorised the Koran.
An armed robbery had taken place near the cricket field, so residents were on alert and police were nearby. Apparently, when the boys appeared with a bag, they were thought to be the robbers, Sherdil said.
The origins of the video are unknown and there are reports that multiple men in the crowd recorded the attack using phones. Stations blurred out some of the more graphic images of the boys' bloodied bodies, but several faces in the crowd are clearly identifiable, including police officers in uniform who watched.
Punjab province Police Chief Tariq Saleem said the government has ordered two separate inquiries into the killings. "This incident is highly condemnable, especially in the police presence," Saleem said after visiting the boys' family. "All accused, including police, will be arrested soon."