Police in Lahore, Pakistan, have arrested a man for the rape and brutal murder of 7-year-old Zainab Ansari, officials said on Tuesday.
According to The Associated Press, the suspect was known to Ansari’s family.”
Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif identified the suspect as 24-year-old Mohammed Imran, who confessed to killing Ansari and at least seven other children.
Sharif said at a news conference that a forensics lab had processed over 1,000 DNA samples linking Imran to a string of child slayings before making the arrest.
“The beast has confessed to have committed the past such crimes,” the official told reporters. “His DNA was matched 100 percent with samples collected from crime scenes.”
Ansari was reported missing in early January after leaving her aunt’s house to walk to a Quran class in Kasur, a city in the Pakistani province of Punjab on the border with India. Police recovered her body from a garbage dumpster several days later.
Her death sparked a string of protests in Pakistan, because community members accused the police of not doing much to solve the incessant murders of children. Some schools were closed during the protests. Two people were killed by the police when they police tried to disperse protesters.
Her death also brought renewed attention to the abductions and rapes of seven other children in Kasur. Only one of the victims, a 6-year-old girl, was not killed, and all of them were found to have Imran’s DNA on them.
But Ansari’s father, Mohammed Amin Ansari, suggested it’s not enough to point the finger at one serial predator, saying police should have done more to warn the public.
There have been at least 20 cases of children abducted, raped and killed in the Kasur district in the last year, according to local lawyer and activist Waqas Abid. Pakistan’s Senate committee tasked with overseeing policing recently launched an inquiry into the sexual assaults in Kasur.
Pakistani fashion designer Maheen Khan, who has spoken openly about her own sexual abuse as a child, said she hoped Ansari’s death would effect a change in culture.
“What disturbs me the most is the silence when a little girl gets raped,” Khan told the AP. “It has to do with the honor of family. Parents tell their daughters: ‘Don’t talk about it. Don’t tell anyone.’ Our silence is saying it is all right to sexually molest a child.”