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Hundreds of Afghans bury woman beaten to death by mob

Crowds turn out for the funeral procession of Farkhunda, 27, who was lynched by an angry mob for allegedly burning the Koran, in central Kabul on March 22, 2015  © AFP

Crowds turn out for the funeral procession of Farkhunda, 27, who was lynched by an angry mob for allegedly burning the Koran, in central Kabul on March 22, 2015

KABUL, Mar 22 – Hundreds of people on Sunday attended the burial of an Afghan woman who was beaten to death and set on fire by a mob for allegedly burning a copy of the Koran.

The body of Farkhunda, 27, who was lynched on Thursday by an angry crowd in central Kabul, was carried to the graveyard by women amid crowds of men, an AFP reporter said, a rare act of protest in a male-dominated society.

The crowd, shouting “Allah o Akbar” (God is greatest), demanded the government bring the killers to justice.

“This is a crime against this family, a crime against a sister and a crime against humanity,” said Bari Salam, a human rights activist.

“All those involved and all those who supported her killing should be brought to justice,” he said.

The lynching — in full view of several police officers — sparked widespread condemnation at home and worldwide.

The United Nations said Farkhunda had “suffered mental illness for many years”.

But Farkhunda’s father told the media his daughter had a diploma in Islamic studies and could recite the Koran by heart. He insisted she was not involved in burning the Muslim holy book.

Farkhunda’s brother Najeebullah Malikzada supported his father’s claim.

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“Farkhunda was a deeply religious girl. She used to recite the holy Koran and pray five times a day,” he told the crowd.

Footage of the attack on social media shows a number of uniformed police watching the crowd as they beat her to death, burn her body and then dump it into a river.

“This brutal act once again shows the incompetence of the police force,” Mariam Mustafawi, one of those at the burial, told AFP.

“Today our police force is unable to enforce the rule of law. How can they protect us against the enemy?” she said.

President Ashraf Ghani condemned the killing as “heinous” and ordered a commission to investigate the incident.

He said police, who play a crucial part in the war against Taliban insurgents, were not well-trained to contain such incidents.

“Almost 90 per cent of the duties of the police today are focused on fighting, which is not their constitutional role, it is not their legal role,” Ghani told reporters on Saturday.

“Focusing on civilian capabilities, on enforcement of the rule of law, is key to us.”

Police said they had arrested 21 people, including eight policemen.

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“I will question the police… we have started our inquiry. Even If I get killed, I won’t let any of her perpetrators get away with it,” said General Zahir Zahir, the head of criminal investigation at the interior ministry.

Allegations of Koran burnings have sparked incidents before in the deeply conservative religious nation.

In 2012 the revelation that copies of the Koran had been burnt at the US-run Bagram prison sparked five days of violent anti-US riots and attacks across the country, in which 30 people died.

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