Thirty-nine people, mostly Christians, were killed and dozens more sickened after consuming toxic liquor on Christmas Eve in central Pakistan, police said Tuesday, the latest case of deadly alcohol poisoning in the conservative Muslim country.
Police in eastern Punjab province took all alcohol sellers in the district of Toba Tek Singh into custody for questioning, district police official Muhammad Shahbaz told dpa.
The drink was consumed during festive celebrations in a Christian community, Shabaz said, however five Muslims were also among the dead.
Many of the victims had been drinking and dancing throughout Sunday and into Monday morning, when some of them fell ill and were taken to hospital, he added.
More 150 people were taken to clinics, dozens of them unconscious.
Funerals have been held for 25 victims, Shabaz said.
The officer said that the individual who allegedly arranged for the alcohol at the Christmas festivities was among the dead, complicating police efforts to trace where the toxic beverage came from.
Though legal breweries exist in Pakistan, alcohol sales and consumption are prohibited for Muslims and tightly regulated for minorities and foreigners.
While wealthy Pakistanis buy bootlegged foreign alcohol at heavily inflated prices, the poor often resort to home-brews that can contain methanol, commonly used in anti-freeze and fuel.
Eleven Christians died in October after consuming toxic liquor at a party in Punjab province.
In October 2014 at least 29 drinkers were killed after consuming methanol-tainted liquor over the Eid public holidays.More than 70 people died and dozens were hospitalized last week in Russia's Irkutsk after drinking bath essence containing toxic alcohol.
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