TOBA TEK SINGH, Aug 1 Seven people were burnt alive and 18 others injured in Gojra on Saturday after fresh violence erupted in the town over the alleged desecration of the Holy Quran three days ago.

More than 50 houses were set on fire and a place of worship belonging to a minority community was damaged by an angry mob. According to sources, most of the houses were burnt by a group of youths who had their faces covered with veils. They threw petrol bombs and fired indiscriminately.

The minority community announced that it would not retrieve bodies and bury them until Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif visited the area and gave assurance of protection to life and property.A complete strike was observed in Gojra town on the call of the Anjuman Tajiran in protest against the alleged desecration of the Holy Quran.

Contingents of Rangers were dispatched to the troubled area on the orders of the federal government.

Religious parties held a public meeting in Malkanwala Chowk, after which hundreds of angry people took out a procession, which marched to a residential area populated mainly by non-Muslims.

Some members of the minority community retaliated with gunshot fires. Ten people were injured.

Police failed to stop the enraged demonstrators from entering the colony in the afternoon and set ablaze over 50 houses. Most of the residents fled, but seven of them were trapped in their houses and burnt to death.

They were identified as Hameed Maseeh, 50, Asia Bibi, 20, Asifa Bibi, 19, Imamia Bibi, 22, Musa, 7, Akhlas Maseeh, 40, and Parveen, 50.

The protesters later burnt old tyres on the railway track and blocked traffic for several hours. They also blocked the Gojra-Samundri bypass.

Police used teargas and fired into the air to disperse the protesters. The mob pelted a police party with stones. Gojra TMO Rana Ahmad Nawaz, Kamalia DSP Akbar Niazi, Sub-Inspector Mukhtar Ahmad and ASI Tariq Mahmood were injured. Constable Usman Khan sustained a bullet wound.

Shabbir Ahmad, a leader of the Labour Qaumi Movement, told reporters that he and his friends rescued a number of people trapped in their houses.

The IG suspended Gojra DSP Raja Ghulam Abbas over police failure to control the violence.

Minorities Alliance leaders Atif Jamil Pagaan and Ashfaq Fateh held police responsible for the riots and demanded registration of a case against negligent officials.

JUDICIAL INQUIRY The LHC chief justice, on the request of the Punjab chief minister, appointed District and Sessions Judge Mahmood Maqbool Bajwa to conduct a judicial probe into the clashes.

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