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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — A Christian couple were allegedly burned alive in an industrial kiln in Pakistan on Tuesday after angry workers discovered they had set fire to several verses of the Quran, a local activist said. Shahbaz Maseeh, 26, and his wife Shama Bibi, 24, were attacked by colleagues at the brick factory where they worked in Punjab province, according to Mushtaq Gill, chief advocate at Pakistani minority rights group LEAD. He said they had planned to flee their town with their three young children.
"A mob of several dozen attacked the building where they were, " said Gill, whose organization’s full name is the Legal Evangelical Association Development. "They broke their legs so they couldn't run and then threw them in the fire. Only some bones and hair were found at the site." Punjab province is home to the majority of Pakistan's around four million Christians. Gill said that word got out over the weekend that several verses of the Quran were among items burnt by Bibi after they were left behind by her deceased father. Setting fire to the religious text is considered blasphemy in Pakistan. While technically punishable by death under strict Islamic law, it is more common for vigilante mobs to take matters into their own hands. Speaking on condition of anonymity, a police official told NBC News up to 35 people were believed to be involved in the attack and that arrests were under way.