Police in Pakistan have arrested approximately 130 suspects following a Muslim-led riot targeting Christian churches and homes on Thursday (Aug. 17), according to The Washington Post.
Rioters were incited to violence against Christians in the city of Jaranwala after rumors began circulating that a local Christian man and his friend had been ripping pages out of the Quran, Islam’s holy book, and defacing it with writing.
The National Commission for Human Rights of Pakistan (NCHR) reported on Thursday that 17 churches in Jaranwala were targeted, including 12 that were registered with the government and five smaller congregations that were unregistered.
Rioters reportedly threw bricks at Christian church buildings, setting some of them on fire. In one video, rioters can be seen climbing onto the roof of a church building and toppling its cross.
“The frequency and scale of such attacks—which are systematic, violent and often uncontainable—appear to have increased in the last several years,” said HCHR.
Most of the individuals arrested were identified through video footage, much of which was put on social media, according to Reuters.
No injuries or deaths have been reported. Local authorities said that most Christians in the area have temporarily fled to safer locations.
Akmal Bhatti, chairman of Minorities Alliance Pakistan, told Al Jazeera, “As things looked tense, families started leaving Jaranwala to go to their relatives in a nearby village, or the city of Faisalabad, which is roughly 40km [24 miles] away.”
The police have been accused of responding slowly to the riots, and some have called into question their commitment to protecting the lives of religious minorities in the country. Roughly 96% of Pakistanis identify as Sunni or Shia Muslim, according to the U.S. Department of State.
The police have denied any wrongdoing, arguing that they prevented the roughly 6,000 rioters from causing even more damage.