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Pakistani town grapples with child abuse and abduction

Pakistani demonstrators carry placards during a protest against a child sex abuse scandal in Karachi. Photograph:( AFP )

Reuters Chunian, Pakistan Sep 24, 2019, 10.34 AM (IST)

Grief, fear, and anger have enveloped the town of Chunian in Pakistan's eastern, Punjab province after the bodies of three missing children were found in a district which has seen numerous cases of child abuse and abductions in recent years.

Police said on Monday that they had made twenty arrests as they investigated the suspected murders and sexual assault of the boys. The body of Muhammad Faizan had been found the previous week, a day after he went missing.

Faizan, 8, had failed to return home with his brother when the two went to nearby shops to buy snacks. His body and the remains of two more boys were later found on a deserted section of an industrial estate.

"The animal brutalized my child. I cannot bear this. I want justice," Faizan's mother, Amtal Salam said.

Local media reported three other children from the area have been missing since the middle of the year and another child had disappeared late last week after the bodies were found.

Videos of hundreds of local children being sexually assaulted were found circulating in 2015, which a senior child protection official at the time called the largest child abuse scandal in Pakistan's history.

Last year, the body of a 7-year-old girl was found in a garbage dumpster, which police said was the twelfth incident of a girl being abducted, raped and killed in the district in a year, and sparked violent protests. A man was convicted of committing the murder and was executed.

Hundreds more protested last week, blocking off streets and damaging shops.

Families in the area are fearful of the welfare and safety of their children.

"Now the children are afraid to go to the mosques, they are afraid to go to school. Announcements have been made that parents should escort their children to school," said Shehnaz Bibi, a housewife from a neighbouring village.

Police are continuing to investigate the suspected murders and disappearances and are also looking into the possibility of a serial killer.

Story highlights

Three other children from the area have been missing since the middle of the year and another child had disappeared late last week after the bodies were found.