Islamabad – The custodian of a Pakistani religious shrine and two accomplices have been arrested for torturing and murdering 20 worshippers with knives and clubs early Sunday, police said.

Four women were among those killed in the attacks at the Sufi Shrine to Mohammad Ali in Punjab province. Victims were apparently given intoxicants before being slaughtered and some of the bodies were nude.

“The 50-year-old shrine custodian, Abdul Waheed, has confessed that he killed these people because he feared that they had come to kill him,” regional police chief Zulfiqar Hameed told AFP.

Another local government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Waheed had told police that the saint buried at the shrine had been poisoned and he feared that his victims might kill him also.

Local police station chief Shamshir Joya said the victims, whose clothes were torn and bloodstained, appeared to have been given intoxicants.

“Local people say that Waheed used to beat the visitors who came to him for treatment of various physical or spiritual ailments,” Shah told reporters in televised comments.

© AFP Arif Ali Several million Muslims in Pakistan are still believed to follow Sufism, although it has been overtaken in recent decades by more conservative versions of the faith

© AFP Arif Ali – Several million Muslims in Pakistan are still believed to follow Sufism, although it has been overtaken in recent decades by more conservative versions of the faith