Pakistani police arrest suspect in rape, killing of 7-year-old that sparked national protests

Authorities in Pakistan on Wednesday arrested a suspect in the rape and murder of a 7-year-old girl that led to nationwide protests and widespread outrage over a lack of government response, officials said.

Zainab Ansari’s body was found by police in a garbage dumpster in Kasur district near the eastern city of Lahore last week, four days after she was reported missing, Reuters reports.

Area residents say the murder was the twelfth such incident in a year, and many fear that a serial rapist killer might be on the loose.

Last week, hundreds of angry protesters took to the streets and two people were killed when police fired on demonstrators. Those protesting have said government indifference and negligence was behind the repeated incidents.

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FILE PHOTO: Members of Civil Society light candles and earthen lamps to condemn the rape and murder of 7-year-old girl Zainab Ansari in Kasur, during a candlelight vigil in Islamabad, Pakistan January 11, 2018. REUTERS/Faisal Mahmood/File Photo - RC18752F1F80

Members of Civil Society light candles and earthen lamps to condemn the rape and murder of 7-year-old girl Zainab Ansari in Kasur, during a candlelight vigil in Islamabad, Pakistan January 11, 2018.  (Reuters)

Two police officers told Reuters the authorities had arrested a man who was being treated as a prime suspect, after police had questioned dozens of people in the case.

“Evidence we’re getting leads us to believe that he is the man,” said one officer, who declined to be identified because he was not authorized to disclose investigation details.

Shahbaz Sharif, the chief minister of Punjab province, where Kasur is located, reportedly visited the town on Wednesday and held a meeting with officials on the investigation.

Sharif did not confirm the arrest in his remarks to media after the meeting, but said the police and other law enforcement agencies were close to solving the case, promising a breakthrough would come very soon.

A reward of 10 million Pakistani rupees ($90,000) has been offered to anyone who provides information about the killer.

Last night, scores of people attended a candlelight vigil for the young girl, with some carrying banners reading ‘Justice for rape victim Zainab Ansari,’ ‘black day for humanity,’ and ‘killers must be punished.’"