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Shrine custodian batters 20 disciples to death in Pakistan

IANS | Islamabad |

A "mentally unstable" shrine custodian in Pakistan's Sargodha city killed 20 disciples, including women, with machetes and batons in a bloodbath inside the shrine, police said on Sunday.

According to Sargodha Deputy Commissioner Liaquat Ali Chatta, custodian Abdul Waheed of the Ali Ahmed Gujjar shrine, told police his disciples would have poisoned him had he not killed them on Saturday night.

Waheed was arrested along with five of his associates who mercilessly killed the people after drugging them and stripping them, a police official said.

The deceased, four women and 16 men, hail from different areas of Punjab, Geo TV reported.

An injured woman, one of the survivors, managed to flee from the site and reported the incident to police.

The 50-year-old Waheed had phoned the victims, telling them to come to the shrine. 

Waheed claimed the devotees had poisoned his spiritual leader Ali Muhammad to death two years ago, Geo News quoted a senior police official as saying.

"The suspect appears to be paranoid and psychotic, or it could be related to rivalry for control of the shrine," he said.

Six of the deceased belonged to the same family. 

One of the victims included the son of Waheed's spiritual leader.

"Asif Pir Ali was the son of Muhammad Gujjar [the spiritial leader]," said a family member of the deceased.

Asif was working with the Islamabad police and was in Sargodha on leave.

Earlier the official said Waheed has claimed that his victims underwent 'spiritual cleansing' after being tortured.

The custodian worked for the Election Commission in Sargodha. According to the Election Commission of Pakistan, Waheed retired from service a year ago.

One of the locals told Geo News that Waheed used to go to the shrine and beat people after which he took their clothes off and burnt them.

Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif has asked for a report into the incident within 24 hours.