Pakistan: Anti-Christian rioters to face justice

Islamabad, Pakistan - Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani Thursday vowed to bring those responsible for last week's deadly violence against Christians in Punjab province to justice. A Muslim mob attacked a Christian neighbourhood in the town of Gojra Saturday after maliciously accusing members of the minority community of desecrating the Koran.

The rioters damaged a church and burned down at least 40 houses, killing eight people over the weekend.

"Christians are equal citizens of Pakistan and the state has the responsibility to protect them," Gilani said during a visit to Gojra on Thursday.

The Punjab government has initiated a judicial inquiry into the violence, which was believed to have been triggered by banned Islamist militant groups with links to al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters, according to a provincial minister.

Intelligence officers are interrogating five people arrested for instigating the riots, the private Geo News television channel reported.

Gilani said authorities had estimated that around 2.43 million dollars would be needed to compensate the riot victims for the losses. He announced that half of the amount would be paid by the federal government.

The premier also stressed the need for interfaith harmony in the country.