Police in Pakistan have arrested a suspect in the rape and murder case of seven-year-old Zainab Ansari, whose death sparked widespread protests across the country.
Authorities in the city of Kasur in eastern Punjab announced the detention of a 24-year-old man, identified as Imran Ali, in connection with the killing of Zainab and a number of other girls.
The suspect is said to be a relative of the seven-year-old girl.
He lived near Zainab’s house in Kasur from where she was abducted.
Zainab was kidnapped on 4 January 2018 when she was on her way to Quran class.
Her body was discovered five days later at a garbage pile.
The post-mortem report revealed that she had been raped and murdered.
Zainab’s murder triggered outrage across Pakistan which included riots against alleged police incompetence. Two protesters were killed in the clashes.
Police in Punjab have been under huge pressure to find the killer of Zainab and the other children.
Zainab’s family say the police did not take action after they reported her missing and it was relatives who recovered CCTV footage of her last movements.
The footage, which showed a girl being led away by a man, was circulated widely on social media.
On Tuesday, Punjab’s Chief Minister, Shehbaz Sharif, said at a press conference in Lahore: “The entire country was praying to catch this killer, and now in front of the entire nation with a grieving heart but with confidence I can say that Zainab’s killer has been arrested.”
Mr Sharif said Imran’s DNA was a match with samples found on Zainab’s body, which was dumped in the garbage about 100 meters from her home. She also appeared to have been raped, he said.
Sharif said authorities had profiled 1,150 DNA samples and were confident they had caught the girl’s killer.
He said: “There is a 100% DNA match with the killer.
“We did a polygraph test, there is a 5% chance you can miss the target, but the DNA is a 100% test correct.”
Zainab’s father, Muhammad Amin Ansari, thanked all those who helped make the arrest in connection with his daughter’s death, adding that he was in Saudi Arabia on Umrah when he found out that Zainab went missing.
Mr Ansari said at a press conference: “Two to three days later I found out that she had been murdered.
“I want to thank all agencies who have helped in arresting the killer.”