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Page last updated at 19:06 GMT, Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Pakistani couple charged with 'occult killing' of baby

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A couple in the southern Pakistani city of Karachi have been charged with murdering their baby daughter as part of an alleged "black magic" ritual.

Officers found the body of the four-month-old girl buried in the couple's house, a court heard. Doctors say it had been there for about four days.

They believe the couple were planning to murder their second daughter, a girl of three, who police found tied up.

Superstitious rituals are not uncommon in Pakistan, but rarely lead to murder.

'Semi-conscious'

Police raided the house in the poor Karachi neighbourhood of Korangi after a tip-off that it was being used by suspected militants as a safe house.

"When nobody answered the door, we broke into the house in the presence of some elders," local police chief Rana Mehmood Pervez told the BBC Urdu service.

A 40-year-old cobbler named as Nadim who rented the house was overpowered after resisting arrest, Mr Mehmood said.

Inside the only room of the house, a three-year-old girl, identified as Maryam, was lying on the floor with her hands and feet tied, he said.

"She was in a semi-conscious state, and her mother, Sana, was sitting beside her."

The BBC's Riaz Sohail in Karachi says the couple had lit a number of candles around the child, which police believe was part of some magic ritual. Police also found printed material containing black magic chants and other information.

The room was filled with the smell of rotting flesh, Mr Mehmood said.

"There was some loose ground where the child was lying, so we dug it up and found the body of four-month-old Fazeelat," he said.

'Evil forces'

Nadim and his wife said "ill-wishers" had put them under a "black magic" spell, police told the BBC.

To ward off the spell, they had contacted a "pir" - or faith healer - in the north-western city of Dera Ismail Khan, and were following his instructions, Mr Mehmood said. He said Nadim had told police that "evil forces" wanted to take Fazeelat away.

A doctor who carried out a post mortem at Karachi's Jinnah hospital said she had been dead for about four days.

Mr Mehmood said he believed the couple would have killed their other daughter as well.

The two accused appeared in court on Tuesday and were remanded for two weeks for further questioning.



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