Pakistani authorities say six Christians, including four women and a
child, have been killed in clashes with Muslims in eastern Punjab
Federal Minister for Minorities Shahbaz Bhatti said a group of radical
Muslims set fire to a church and some 40 homes of Christians in the
city of Gojra, after accusing them of desecrating Islam's holy book,
Bhatti said there was no truth to the allegations. Officials say the unrest first began last month.
Television footage from the scene showed houses burning and streets
strewn with blackened debris. There were also reports of gunfights.
Several people were injured.
Officials urged both the Muslim and Christian communities to show restraint.
Christians make up a tiny minority of Pakistan's predominantly Sunni Muslim population of at least 150 million people.
Elsewhere, police said Saturday they had arrested a member of an
al-Qaida linked group, suspected of involvement in several attacks
including last year's suicide bombing of Islamabad's Marriott Hotel.
Authorities detained Rao Shakir, a suspected member of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, on the outskirts of Islamabad this week.
In other news, schools in Pakistan's northwest re-opened Saturday, for
the first time in three months following the launch of Pakistan's
military offensive against Taliban militants.
The students said they were happy to be back in class, although many
were still absent Saturday. Most of the nearly two million people who
fled the fighting have yet to return to the area, which includes Swat
Valley, Lower and Upper Dir and other areas of Malakand district.
The militants, who fought to impose strict Islamic law (Sharia) in
parts of the northwest, targeted schools, especially those that taught
girls. More than 350 schools were damaged or destroyed.
Students from the damaged schools learned lessons in tents Saturday.
Pakistan's government began allowing the displaced to return, after
saying it had cleared parts of the northwest of Taliban militants.