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Pakistani Mob Kills Man After Fruit Found Wrapped In Koran Pages

Afghan Shi'ite Muslim Hazara women participate in a hunger strike to protest a bombing in Pakistan targeting Shi'a that killed 89 people in February.
QUETTA, Pakistan -- Pakistani officials say an angry mob killed a man and wounded three others in the southwestern city of Quetta over the desecration of a Koran.

Balochistan's provincial home secretary, Asad Gilani, says the violence began on December 11 after a man at Quetta's Hazar Ganji fruit market found a crate of Iranian-grown pomegranates that were wrapped in pages torn from the Muslim holy book.

An angry mob quickly formed and began shouting slogans against Shi'a, who form a majority in Iran, and then marched to Quetta's main market, Liaquat Bazar, in the city center trying to shut down shops.

Amid the chaos, a gunbattle broke out at Liaquat Bazar that left one dead and three injured.

RFE/RL's correspondent in Quetta reports that hundreds of Sunni men from Ahl-e Sunnat Waljamaat, a conservative Islamist party, were on the streets of Quetta protesting and calling for government action.

That group claims that the fruit arrived from Iran already wrapped in the Koran pages.

But police are also investigating the possibility of a provocation aimed at stirring up violence against Quetta's ethnic Hazara Shi'ite community.

Police in Quetta told RFE/RL that they have detained at least five men for questioning.

They include the owner of the stall where the pomegranates and Koran pages were found on December 11, as well as the man who reported the discovery to police.

Others detained for questioning were employees of the Hazar Ganji market fruit dealer, including a truck driver who transported crates of the pomegranates to Quetta from the Pakistani town of Taftan on the border with Iran.

According to a police report on the initial findings of the investigation, the truck driver told the authorities that the fruit had been bought from a private trader in Taftan who had purportedly brought them into Pakistan from neighboring Iran.

With reporting by AFP