The Christian neighborhood of Joseph Colony in Lahore, Pakistan was attacked on Saturday after a Christian sanitation worker allegedly blasphemed the Prophet Mohammed.
Several thousand people armed with batons and pistols set fire to houses and churches on Saturday morning, according to the New York Times.
178 houses, 18 shops and 2 churches were damaged by fires, the Times reported.
Several policemen were hurt as they tried to intervene.
“They vandalized Christians’ houses, desecrated churches and opened fire on the police,” according to police spokesman Multan Khan.
The incident reportedly began earlier in the week as an argument between Sawan Masih, the sanitation worker, and his friend, a Muslim barber named Shahid Imran, according to the Times.
Imran reportedly accused Masih of blasphemy on Friday, a serious crime in Pakistan that triggers visceral and often violent reactions.
A large group of Muslims reportedly visited the Christian's home Friday night, and a blasphemy case was registered with the police after the crowd demanded action, according to the Associated Press.
Hundreds of Christians reportedly fled the area overnight following the incident, the AP reported.
Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah said that all those involved in the arsons would be arrested, DAWN Pakistan reported.
"They have burnt each and every thing in my whole house. Nothing is left here. I don't know why this happened," Samina Riaz, a resident of Joseph Colony, told the AP. "Now we don't have even enough to eat."
Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf ordered an investigation into the attacks, Agence France-Presse reported.
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