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Pakistani Christians protest mob killings

LAHORE, Pakistan — Hundreds of Pakistani Christians staged a protest Wednesday over the killing of eight of their community members by a Muslim mob, with some demonstrators smashing the windows of public buses.

Television footage showed dozens of protesters in the eastern city of Lahore climbing onto the vehicles and breaking their windows.

Ijaz Sindhu, chairman of the organizing group, the Pakistan Christian Labour Party, said some young people attacked four buses but caused no injuries to fleeing passengers.

Police officer Rana Ayaz Salim said about 1,000 people took part in Wednesday's demonstration.

Hundreds of Muslims attacked a Christian neighborhood in Gojra city on Saturday after reports that a Quran had been desecrated. Eight Christians were killed.

Authorities say an initial probe debunked the claims that the Muslim holy book was defiled, and government officials have said members of the banned Sunni group Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan and its al-Qaida-linked offshoot Lashkar-e-Jhangvi were arrested as suspects in the attacks.

The independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said its fact-finding team has determined that the rioting had been planned and was not spontaneous. It said hard-line clerics made incendiary speeches.

The assault, in which dozens of homes were also burned, underscored the precarious status of religious minorities in the Muslim-majority nation where extremist Islam is on the rise.

Punjab Minister for Minority Affairs Kamran Michael said Wednesday that a judge had been appointed to conduct a judicial inquiry into the Gojra riots, and that the judge had visited the site.

Newspapers have been filled with letters from readers condemning the Gojra attacks.

Christians — including both Protestants and Catholics — make up less than 5 percent of Pakistan's 175 million people, according to the CIA World Factbook. They generally live in peace with their Muslim neighbors, but are vulnerable to blasphemy laws that carry heavy penalties for insulting Islam, the Quran or the Prophet Muhammad.

The blasphemy laws often are misused to settle personal scores and enmities.