A 23-year-old student was killed by an angry mob at a university in Pakistan on Thursday after he was accused of posting blasphemous content online.
A mob of angry students reportedly used sticks and broken glass to attack Mashal Khan, a journalism student at Abdul Wali Khan University in the northwestern city of Mardan. The police said they were unable to intervene and save the student because the mob, estimated to be made up of around 1,000 people, was so large.
Mardan District Police Officer Dr. Mian Saeed said that at least 45 people have been arrested by Thursday evening. The police have closed down the university while they look for other suspects, VOA News reported.
According to Reuters, the accusations of blasphemy against Khan started the day before the incident when he participated in a heated debate over religion with fellow students.
Witnesses said that the mob kicked in the door and dragged Khan out of his room and beat him to death.
Aziz ur Rehman, a caretaker at the hostel, said that Khan was still alive when the police arrived.
"They could have easily saved his life but they stood away from the mob ... I heard one officer say it's good that they sent this non-believer to hell," he said.
Mardan police chief Mohammad Alam Shinwari disputed the allegation that the officers did not do enough to save the student.
"When we entered the campus, he had already been killed and the mob was trying to burn his body," he said.
Khan has been described by those who knew him as an inquisitive student who has openly professed his devotion to Islam.
"Whatever he had to say, he would say it openly, but he didn't understand the environment he was living in," said one of his teachers, who declined to be named for fear of retribution.
The mob also beat up Khan's friend, identified only as Abdullah, who is also a journalism student. An eyewitness said that Khan and Abdullah were attacked because they were believed to be "promoting the Ahmadi faith on Facebook."
Abdullah was beaten by other students even after he denied the accusation that he was an Ahmadi, which is considered to be heretical.
The police were able to rescue Abdullah, but the mob set its sights on Khan, who was in the hostel at the time.
A footage of the attack showed men kicking Khan's lifeless body and beating it with wooden planks.
One student requesting anonymity claimed that several leaders of the university's student body took part in the attack against Khan.
The authorities have not been able to find any evidence to substantiate the blasphemy allegations.
An imam at a local mosque in Khan's hometown of Swabi has reportedly refused to read the last rites and several people confronted a technician who was asked to do it in the cleric's place.
Khan has since been buried, but the Pakistani government has yet to comment publicly on the killing.