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Protests erupt over rape, murder of 7-year-old girl in Pakistan

Protesters marched for a second day Thursday in the Pakistani city of Kasur over the rape and murder of a seven-year-old girl whose body was found dumped on a garbage pile.

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Laura Smith-Spark
Adeel Raja (CNN)
KARACHI, PAKISTAN (CNN) — Protesters marched for a second day Thursday in the Pakistani city of Kasur over the rape and murder of a seven-year-old girl whose body was found dumped on a garbage pile.

Zainab's killing has angered local people who say the authorities in Punjab province have done too little to keep their children safe after a series of similar killings.

At least two people died Wednesday as protesters clashed with police.

Punjab's Chief Minister Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif ordered police to arrest the girl's killers in the next 24 hours and offered a 10 million Pakistani rupee bounty (over $90,000) for anyone who helps identify those responsible.

He also asked police to provide full details of the 11 murders of young girls in the same area before that of Zainab.

Amid rising anger, demonstrators ransacked the office of a local lawmaker for the ruling party, Naeem Safdar, on Thursday and chanted slogans calling for the resignation of Shehbaz Sharif.

An autopsy has confirmed that Zainab was strangled and sodomized and suggests she was raped, the medical officer who carried out the examination, Dr Quratulain Atique, told CNN.

There were torture marks on her face and Zainab's tongue was crushed between her teeth, she said. The report suggests that when the autopsy was performed, she may have been dead for two or three days already.

Parents 'living in fear'

CNN's Pakistani affiliate Geo News reported that Zainab was taken from near her home in Kasur on January 4 while her parents were in Saudi Arabia on an Umrah pilgrimage. Surveillance video provided by the family to police shows Zainab being led away by a man.

Her father, now back in Pakistan, told Geo News that police were not doing enough to find their child. He said they would not bury their daughter until those responsible were arrested.

Kasur district was previously at the center of a child sexual abuse scandal in which a gang of up to 25 men was accused of blackmailing scores of children into making sex videos between 2009 and 2014. The abuse was uncovered in 2015 and a number of suspects arrested.

The experience has scarred the local community. "For the last two years, we are living in fear, parents are scared to send their kids outside," Zainab's father told reporters.

Kasur regional police officer Muhammad Kausar Zulfiqar told CNN that the girl's body was found on a heap of garbage only 100 meters from her home in Kasur.

This is the 12th such case in the same 2-kilometer area, the regional police office confirmed, and DNA test results match in at least five of the cases. Zainab was first reported missing on January 5 by her uncle, the regional police office added.

Outrage builds online

Outrage over Zainab's murder quickly spread on social media in Pakistan, with many using the hashtag #JusticeForZainab.

Pakistan's Malala Yousafzai, the youngest ever Nobel Peace Price winner, lent her voice to the push for justice.

"Heartbroken to hear about Zainab -- a 7 year old child abused and brutally killed in Kasur, Pakistan," she tweeted. "This has to stop. Gov and the concerned authorities must take action."

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