Pakistan mob kills Christian couple over 'blasphemy'

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image captionPrevious attacks on minority communities over blasphemy allegations have led to protests

A Christian couple in Pakistan have been beaten to death by an angry crowd after being accused of desecrating a Koran, police say.

Their bodies were burned at the brick kiln where they worked in the town of Kot Radha Kishan in Punjab province.

Police identified the victims only as Shama and Shehzad, AFP reports.

Blasphemy is a highly sensitive issue and critics argue the laws are often misused to settle personal scores and that minorities are unfairly targeted.

"Yesterday an incident of desecration of the holy Koran took place in the area and today the mob first beat the couple and later set their bodies on fire at a brick kiln," local police station official Bin Yameen told the AFP news agency.

A security official told the BBC that local police had tried to save the couple, but they were outnumbered and attacked by the angry crowd.

Senior police officials and government ministers have now arrived there to investigate the killings.

In May gunmen in the city of Multan shot dead a lawyer, Rashid Rehman, who had been defending a university lecturer accused of blasphemy.

And last month a Pakistani court upheld the death penalty for Asia Bibi, a Christian woman convicted of blasphemy in 2010 - a case which sparked a global outcry.

Since the 1990s, scores of Christians have been found guilty of desecrating the Koran or of blasphemy.

While most of them have been sentenced to death by the lower courts, many sentences have been overturned due to lack of evidence.

However, correspondents say even the mere accusation of blasphemy is enough to make someone a target for hardliners.

Muslims constitute a majority of those prosecuted, followed by minority Ahmadis.

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