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Pakistan Arrests Key Suspect In Murder Of 10-Year-Old Girl

FILE: People protest against the murder and alleged rape of a 10-year-old Farishta Momand in Peshawar on May 21.
FILE: People protest against the murder and alleged rape of a 10-year-old Farishta Momand in Peshawar on May 21.

ISLAMABAD -- Pakistani authorities say they have arrested a key suspect in relation to the kidnapping and murder of a 10-year-old girl in Islamabad.

Anis Akbar, a police officer leading the investigation into the murder of Farishta Momand, told RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal on June 23, the suspect was arrested on June 21 and pleaded guilty in a court on June 22.

Akbar said the suspect is a neighbor of Momand and her family had complained of harassment in the past.

The victim’s father, Ghulam Nabi, confirmed in a June 23 interview with Radio Mashaal that his wife had identified the suspect in court. He added it was “now up to the police to prove” if he is the murderer.

Farishta’s mother told the police that she had spotted the suspect roaming around her daughter before she disappeared, domestic media reported.

Reports said the suspect had assaulted several children in the past.

Three other suspects have been released without being charged.

The case has triggered street protests and national condemnation in Pakistan, where crimes against children are common and often go unpunished.

The mutilated body of the girl, Farishta, was found on the outskirts of the capital four days after she disappeared from her neighborhood of Shahzad Town on May 15.

Nabi, the victim's father, alleges that the police did not immediately look for the girl and mistreated him when he tried to report her missing.

The girl's family is from the Pashtun community and originally from northwestern Pakistan.

Hundreds of people, mostly Pashtuns, have rallied in Islamabad to demand justice.

Calls for action are being made on social media, under the hashtag #JusticeForFarishta.

The rape and murder of seven-year-old Zainab Ansari in January 2018 sparked national outrage and protests across Pakistan.

In October 2018, authorities executed a man convicted of killing Ansari and seven other children.

There were 3,832 reported cases of child abuse during 2018, according to the nongovernmental organization Sahil.

With reporting by dpa, AP, and Dawn