KABUL, Afghanistan — An angry mob stoned and beat a woman before hurling her onto a riverbed and setting her body alight in the Afghan capital after she allegedly burned copies of the Quran, officials and eyewitnesses told NBC News.
The woman was set upon by a crowd near the popular Shah-Do Shamshira holy shrine in Kabul on Thursday, according to two nearby shopkeepers and police officials.
Mohammad Haroon, a 23-year-old bread seller near the shrine, and Abdullah, a nearby shopkeeper who like many Afghans goes by only one name, told NBC News that police attempted to hold back the crowd by locking the doors of the shrine and firing shots into the air. But the mob climbed the walls of the compound and chanted that the woman should be killed, they said.
The crowd then attacked the woman with sticks and stones, with some men stomping on her body, and she was dragged down the street, according to eyewitnesses and horrific images shared widely on social media. Haroon added that several cars drove over the woman's body while she was in the street before she was thrown in onto the riverbed and set on fire.
The victim's family told Kabul police their daughter had been suffering from mental illness for many years, according to Afghanistan's TOLO news channel.
Details of the attack were confirmed by a police official at the scene who did not wish to be named because he was not authorized to speak to the media. Kabul police chief Gen Abdul Rahman Rahimi confirmed that the woman was killed but declined to give further details. He said four people had been arrested in connection with the incident.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said in a statement Friday that the Ministry of Interior and a committee of religious scholars would conduct separate investigations into the incident. Ghani said that while Afghanistan condemns in the "strong terms" disrespectful actions toward the Quran, no one was permitted to "make oneself a judge and use violence to punish others." This was a "clear contradiction" of Islamic law, he said.
Previous instances of Quran burning — including by controversial U.S. pastor Terry Jones — have set off violent and widespread protests in conservative Afghanistan.