Pakistan

Suspects held after Christmas moonshine death toll rises to 43

TOBA TEK SINGH: Police on Wednesday caught three men accused of preparing home-made liquor mixed with ‘aftershave’ that so far killed 43 people including a fourth suspect after they consumed the toxic brew on Christmas Eve.

More than a hundred people were also sickened in the incident, one of the country’s deadliest cases of mass alcohol poisoning, which happened in a Christian neighbourhood in the town of Toba Tek Singh some 340 kilometres (211 miles) south of Islamabad.

“Four people have been identified who prepared and distributed the toxic liquor,” senior police official Atif Imran adding the group had also consumed the alcohol themselves.

“One of them died because of the liquor, two others are in critical condition while the fourth is in police custody,” he added.

The suspect in police custody had confessed to preparing the brew by mixing it with 20 litres of ‘aftershave’ and other chemicals.

The development was confirmed by another senior police official Usman Akram Gondal.

Though legal breweries exist in Pakistan, alcohol sales and consumption are banned for Muslims and tightly regulated for minorities and foreigners.

While wealthy Pakistanis buy foreign alcohol on the black market at heavily inflated prices, the poor often resort to homebrews that can contain methanol, commonly used in antifreeze and fuel.

Eleven Christians died in October after consuming toxic liquor at a party in Punjab province while in October 2014; some 29 drinkers were killed after consuming methanol-tainted liquor.

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