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DADU, Dec 21: A 35-year-old man detained in a lock-up in a Quran desecration case was beaten to death and his body was torched by a lynch mob who stormed the Rajo Deero police station on Friday morning, police said.

Officials said over 1,000 people from Sita village and its surroundings attacked the police station at 8am to take out from the lock-up the man who had been handed over to the police some hours earlier by Memon Masjid area residents while accusing him of setting fire to the Quran.

The situation in Sita village remained out of control for several hours as the mob doused the suspect’s body with kerosene at the main junction in the village before putting a match to it.

Earlier, announcements were made from mosques in the village about the desecration of the holy book.

While the man remained in the custody of the Rajo Deero police for nearly five hours, the officials failed to ascertain his identity.

Dadu SSP Usman Ghani Siddique said: “He remained tight-lipped and didn’t disclose his name every time police investigators asked him about it following the registration of a complaint against him in the daily diary.”

He added that a watchman in the village, Noor Hussain, told the police that the Seraiki-speaking suspect entered Memon Masjid, threw away a rosary and torched the Quran at 3am. The complainant was quoted as saying that smoke spread in the area due to the burning. The watchman also alleged that he (the suspect) threatened him that he would kill him and his children when he tried to stop him.

The SSP said that the Rajo Deero police finally lodged the complaint in the diary against an unknown person, put the suspect in the lock-up and began interrogation.

As soon as dawn broke, the news spread from Sita village to its neighbouring areas. At 8am, the SSP said, a big crowd of people stormed the police station, held the officials hostage and got the suspect’s custody before giving him a hiding. They used kicks, fists and clubs that caused his instant death.

He said they brought the body to the main Chowk in Sita village, two kilometres from the police station, where people started gathering as announcements were made from the mosque about the early hours happening. The body of the man accused of desecration of the holy book was burnt at the main junction.

It took the police several hours to reach the area and shift the body to the health centre situated on Sita Road, where a post-mortem examination was conducted.

Senior medical officer at the health centre Dr Mohammad Bux told Dawn that the body was completely burnt.

Following the medico-legal formality, the body of the unidentified suspect was buried in the Masoom Shah graveyard in Sita village.

Arrests, FIRs

The SSP said that nine persons were picked up from the village and 21 more were arrested later during raids at different places.

He said that the police were conducting further raids to arrest more persons involved in the incident. He said that the officials could identify those who had attacked the police station and burnt the body.

Three FIRs related to the incidents were registered at the Rajo Deero police station, the officer said.

He added that one of the FIRs was registered against unknown persons for burning the Quran, the other was registered against 1,000 persons who attacked the police station, killed the suspect and burnt the body.

Another FIR was registered against Rajo Deero SHO Ghulam Mustafa Tunio and six police officials for negligence of duty, he said, adding that the officials had been taken into custody.

Meanwhile, SHO Tunio told Dawn that he had completed all legal formalities and said he had had informed senior police officers when the police station and the suspect came under attack.

He claimed that there was shortage of personnel at the police station as there were between 900 and 1,000 people who attacked the police station. He said the policemen were held hostage and relieved of weapons during the mob attack.