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Afghan woman beaten to death by crowd
01:51 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

NEW: 11 have been arrested in woman's beating, government spokesman says

She was accused of burning the Quran, though there's no evidence yet she did

Her parents say their daughter suffered from mental illness for years

Kabul, Afghanistan CNN  — 

The Afghan woman is dragged onto a roof and hit with a stick, as a horde of angry, screaming men swarm around her.

At one point, video shows her standing with her face covered in blood. She is pushed and falls over, and her beating continues with feet, with rocks, with boards. Then, in the last part of the video, her body is engulfed in flames – though it’s not known whether, by that point, she was already dead.

This horrific scene played out in Kabul on Thursday. It’s already had ripple effects, including a United Nations statement on Friday condemning what it called “the brutal killing and burning of a 27-year-old mentally ill woman.”

That corresponds with what the woman’s parents told CNN affiliate Tolo News, saying their daughter suffered from mental health problems for the last 16 years.

It’s not known whether her attackers knew this, or that it would have mattered.

What motivated the mob, according to witnesses, was a belief that the targeted woman had burned the Quran. CNN hasn’t seen any proof that she set a copy ablaze. Afghanistan’s Ministry of Hajj and Religious Affairs has found no such evidence, either, according to Tolo.

Mark Bowden, acting head of the U.N. Afghanistan mission, said that burning the Quran hurts efforts to promote “understanding and mutual respect between cultures and religions.”

“However, the brutal murder of this woman is an unspeakably horrendous act,” Bowden said, “that should result in those responsible being prosecuted, to the fullest extent possible, under Afghan law.”

Body burned, thrown in river

Nahid, a 45-year-old woman who goes only by one name, told CNN what she saw and heard outside the Shah Do Shamshera shrine, which is opposite a mosque by the same name. A group of women were shouting at the eventual victim, accusing her of burning the Quran, according to Nahid. The woman yelled back.

This got the attention of men nearby. Police tried to close gates to keep them out but it didn’t work, said the witness, noting that many men jumped a fence and began beating the accused woman.

The hits and kicks ended after someone poured fuel on the woman and lit her on fire, said Nahid, who watched from inside the shrine.

“(They) burned her and then threw her corpse away in the Kabul River,” she said.

President: Not up to individuals to enforce ‘Islamic justice’

As of Saturday, 11 people had been arrested in connection with the woman’s death, according to Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Seddiqi.

Seddiqi said that the investigation is ongoing.

President Ashraf Ghani ordered two investigations related to the case – one into the beating itself and another including religious scholars.

His government is “committed to protecting and safeguarding all Islamic values,” including prohibitions on burning the Quran (if that is, indeed, what this woman did).

That’s a responsibility of the nation’s security and legal system, Ghani said, not of individual Afghans.

“No individual is allowed to make oneself a judge and use violence to punish others in degrading manners,” the President said. “Launching personal trials and choosing who to punish stands in clear contradiction to Sharia and Islamic justice.”

CNN’s Masoud Popalzai reported from Kabul, and CNN’s Greg Botelho wrote this story from Atlanta.