Afghan police have arrested nine suspects after a mob beat a woman to death for allegedly burning a copy of the Holy Quran and then set her body ablaze, officials said on Friday.
General Farid Afzali, the head of the police criminal investigation department, told AFP the woman, whose body was dumped in the Kabul river, had been undergoing psychiatric treatment for the past four years.
Acts of desecration towards the Islamic holy book are taken extremely seriously in Afghanistan, a deeply conservative, religious society.
In 2012, the revelation that copies of the Quran had been burnt at the US-run Bagram prison sparked five days of violent anti-US riots and attacks across the country, which killed 30 people.
President Ashraf Ghani has ordered an investigation into the incident, condemning the “act of extreme violence”, in a statement released by his office.
“No individual is allowed to make oneself a judge and use violence to punish others in degrading manners,” the statement said.
“Launching personal trials and choosing who to punish stands in clear contradiction to Sharia and Islamic justice. “Afzali said police had taken nine suspects into custody.
Interior ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi confirmed the arrests and said they were seriously investigating the incident.
The statement from Ghani’s office also condemned “in strong terms any action that causes disrespect to the Holy Quran and Islamic values”.
Violence against women is endemic in Afghanistan but mob assaults on women in Kabul are very rare.
Graphic photos of the incident showing the victim looking bloody and battered have been circulating on social media.
An Afghan cleric and a police official on Friday defended the lynching of a woman in central Kabul after a mob was filmed stamping on the woman and smashing a brick on her head after she was accused of burning a copy of the Quran.
It was unclear whether she had actually burned a Koran, but during Friday prayers at a mosque in a smart area of Kabul, a cleric’s sermon broadcast by loudspeaker told devotees that the crowd had a right to defend their Muslim beliefs at all costs.
“I am warning the government not to arrest those who did this, because it will mean an uprising,” said the cleric at the Wazir Akbar Khan mosque.
Another Afghan man boasted on Facebook of participating in the lynching, saying that “pious people of Kabul, including myself, killed her and then burnt her. Her place is in hell.”
A spokesman in the Kabul police chief’s office also appeared to justify the killing, saying the woman had deliberately insulted Islam.
“This (person) thought, like several other unbelievers, that this kind of action and insult will get them U.S. or European citizenship. But before reaching their target, lost their life,” Hashmat Stanekzai wrote on his Facebook page.