Afghan police have arrested nine suspects after a mob beat a woman to death and set her body on fire for allegedly burning a copy of the Quran, officials said on Friday.
General Farid Afzali, the head of the police criminal investigation department, told AFP the woman, Farkhunda, whose body was dumped in the Kabul river, had been undergoing psychiatric treatment for the past four years.
President Ashraf Ghani has ordered an investigation into the incident, condemning the "act of extreme violence," he said in a statement released by his office.
"No individual is allowed to make oneself a judge and use violence to punish others in degrading manners," he said. "Launching personal trials and choosing who to punish stands in clear contradiction to Sharia and Islamic justice."
Interior ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi confirmed the arrests and said they were seriously investigating the incident.
The statement from Ghani's office also condemned "in strong terms any action that causes disrespect to the Holy Quran and Islamic values."
In 2012, the burning of copies of the Quran at the U.S.-run Bagram prison sparked five days of violent riots and attacks across the country, killing 30 people.
Violence against women is endemic in Afghanistan, but such public attacks, especially in the capital, remain unusual. Rights groups worry that violence against women persists and women remain under-represented in politics and public life. A 2013 United Nations report noted that most violence against women goes underreported, particularly in rural areas.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the authorities should not only prosecute those responsible for Farkhunda’s killing, but also take action against police who failed to intervene and officials who have made statements justifying the murder.
"I would certainly hope the government would be trying to arrest and prosecute everyone who was involved and doing an internal investigation into whether the police response was appropriate," said HRW’s Heather Barr, a senior researcher for women's rights in Asia.
Al Jazeera and wire services
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