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Sialkot lynching: 6 more primary suspects arrested; raids ongoing to find others

The Punjab police on Sunday identified and arrested six more of the main alleged culprits involved in the lynching of 49-year-old Sri Lankan factory manager Priyantha Kumara in Sialkot over blasphemy allegations.

A mob comprising hundreds of protestors, including the employees of the factory Kumara was the manager of, had tortured him to death on Friday and later burnt his body.

The FIR was registered against 900 workers of Rajco Industries on the application of Uggoki Station House Officer (SHO) Armaghan Maqt under sections 302, 297, 201, 427, 431, 157, 149 of the Pakistan Penal Code and 7 and 11WW of the Anti-Terrorism Act.

The applicant admitted that the protesters had slapped, kicked, punched and hit Kumara with rods in his presence, and dragged him out of the factory on Wazirabad Road where he died. They then set the body on fire. The SHO said he was helpless in front of the mob owing to shortage of personnel.

Over the past two days, the police had arrested scores, to which six more primary suspects have been added, according to an update shared on Twitter today. The suspects were traced using CCTV footage and mobile phone data. “The suspects were hiding at the homes of their friends and relatives,” the statement said.

The police added that out of the 124 people arrested, 19 played a “central role” in the brutal killing.

The statement added that the process of identifying those that instigated the violence is currently underway. “Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar and IG Rao Sardar Ali Khan are personally monitoring the entire investigation process,” the statement said.

District Police Officer (DPO) Omar Saeed Malik said that raids were still being carried out to arrest more suspects.

Buzdar said the investigation was being taken forward in a scientific manner. He also directed the prosecution secretary to follow the case.

Meanwhile, 13 of the main suspects were produced in a criminal court and subsequently remanded in police custody for one day. The suspects were identified as Farhan Idrees, Saboor Butt, Talha, Abdul Rehman, Imran, Taimur, Shoaib, Raheel, Usman, Shahzaib, Nasir, Ehtisham and Junaid.

They were produced in the court of judge Zarif Ahmed amid tight security. The accused will be produced before the Gujranwala anti-terrorism court tomorrow.

Meanwhile, another video has surfaced of a man, reportedly Kumara’s colleague, trying to placate the mob and reason with it.

In the video, the colleague can be heard telling the mob that Kumara is a non-Muslim and “didn’t know what was written on the paper”. He tried to assure the charged mob that Kumara would be removed from the factory and an FIR would be registered.

However, the crowd drowned out his pleas and refused to listen. A day earlier, footage shot prior to the lynching showed the same colleague trying to protect Kumara on the roof of the factory where he had fled while the mob of around two dozen people slowly grew in number.

In the video, some among the mob can be heard chanting slogans and saying “he (the manager) will not escape today,” while the colleague tried to shield Kumara with his body, who clung to the man’s legs.

The workers had later overpowered the colleague and dragged the Sri Lankan out on the road and tortured him with kicks, stones and iron rods, killing him on the spot. The mob had then set the body on fire.

On Saturday, Sialkot Deputy Commissioner Tahir Farooq said Kumara body had been transported to a Lahore hospital in a Rescue 1122 ambulance amid tight security. After fulfilling formalities, it would be sent to Colombo.

Quoting unidentified police sources, said some factory workers disliked the deceased general manager, a textile engineer, for being strict in enforcing discipline. After a routine inspection on Friday morning, Kumara had snubbed the sanitary staff over poor work. The channel further reported that as the factory was about to undergo a whitewash, the manager started removing posters from walls. As one of the posters was an invitation to a religious moot, some workers objected to it.

The channel sources said Kumara offered an apology, but a supervisor instigated the workers, who attacked him. Kumara ran to the roof and tried to hide under solar panels, but the enraged workers got hold of him and killed him there and then.

Kumara grieving wife, Niroshi Dasaniyake, has pleaded with both Pakistani and Sri Lankan leaders for justice for her slain husband.

My husband was an innocent man. I found out from the news that after working abroad for so long he had been brutally murdered. I saw on the internet how inhuman the killing was. I appeal to the Sri Lankan president and the Pakistani prime minister and president to conduct a fair investigation so my husband and our two children get justice, she said while speaking to BBC Sinhala.

Meanwhile, Sri Lankan news website, Newswire, quoted Colombo High Commissioner in Pakistan Vice Admiral Mohan Wijewickrama as saying that arrangements were being made to transport Kumara’s remains from Lahore to Colombo on a special flight on Monday.

Later, Prime Minister Imran Khan said he had spoken to Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa “to convey our nation’s anger and shame to people of Sri Lanka at the vigilante killing of Priyantha Diyawadana in Sialkot”.

“I informed him that over 100 people [have been] arrested and assured him they would be prosecuted with full severity of the law,” the premier tweeted.

Prime Minister Imran’s tweet came after Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa said he was shocked by the brutal and fatal attack on the manager and expressed the hope that the former would fulfil his commitment to penalise those involved in the killing.

“My heart goes out to his wife and family. #SriLanka and her people are confident that PM [Imran Khan] will keep to his commitment to bring all those involved to justice,” he tweeted.