A mob of angry villagers in Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province has killed a man accused of blasphemy, police say.
Aasheq Nabi was shot dead in Nowshera district, 30km (18 miles) from Peshawar, after reports he had burnt a copy of the Koran.
News of the alleged desecration spread rapidly, bringing people onto the streets and calls for his arrest.
Correspondents say it is the first time in several years that a blasphemy case in Pakistan has involved mob violence.
Police said on Wednesday they had raided Mr Nabi’s house in the Pabbi area, but the 400-strong mob found him first.
Witnesses say he was chased through fields and sought refuge up a tree before being shot dead by someone in the crowd.
Police said Mr Nabi, who was in his 40s, had been in hiding since Monday.
“We registered a case against him on Tuesday, but he was shot dead today before we could arrest him,” local police official Abdul Razzaq told the Associated Press.
He said Mr Nabi’s family had been among those who reported him to police.
Police have yet to make any arrests in connection with the lynching.
Under Pakistani law, the death penalty is mandatory for anyone convicted of blasphemy.
Human rights activists describe the law as deeply flawed.
They allege that since coming into force, it has been used to settle personal scores and to target minorities.
Over the last 15 years or so, dozens of Pakistanis – including Christians, Muslims and Qadianis (a sect declared non-Muslim under Pakistan’s constitution) – have been charged with blasphemy.
In 1994, religious extremists shot dead a Christian, Manzur Masih, who was accused of blasphemy but was acquitted by the Lahore High Court. He died on the spot and two of his co-accused – also acquitted by the court – were seriously injured.
Three years later, Arif Iqbal Bhatti, the judge who had acquitted Manzur and his co-accused, was also shot dead.
In 1998, a Pakistani bishop, John Joseph, committed suicide in protest against the laws.