LAHORE    -   Police in Punjab have launched a high-level investigation after three children were found murdered near Chunian in district Kasur on Tuesday.

Police sources confirmed that three of the four children who went missing under mysterious circumstances from Chunian were recovered dead early Tuesday in the same locality. The mutilated bodies were lying next to each other in the bushes at a deserted place in Tehsil Chunian as police reached there. The whereabouts of the fourth missing child were not clear as yet.

The children, as young as seven, went missing under mysterious circumstances from Chunian during the last couple of months. The district police badly failed to trace the victims. Some passersby on Tuesday morning spotted bodies in the bushes and alerted the local police by phone. The bodies were shifted to Chunian Tehsil Headquarters Hospital for autopsy.

The police have yet to ascertain the identity of the victim boys.

According to a police spokesman, Punjab Police Inspector General Arif Nawaz Khan took notice of the horrific incident and directed Sheikhupura regional police officer to send back a detailed report about killings of three children who were found dead in Chunian district Kasur. The IGP also directed police to trace and arrest culprits at earliest, the spokesman claimed.

The police chief also ordered the district police officer to personally supervise the investigation and bring culprits to justice. The police have registered three separate murder cases against unidentified pedophile and launched investigation with no arrest made yet.

Soon after discovery of the bodies, heavy police contingents including the district administration reached the spot and shifted the bodies to morgue for autopsy. A large number of locals also gathered at crime scene and condemned the horrific killings.

According to police sources who witnessed the bodies, the victims were abducted, raped, and murdered one by one during the last couple of months. “Two bodies were almost decomposed while the third victim was murdered during the last 24 hours,” a police investigator said. He further revealed that modus operandi and the killings were identical to each other. “Apparently, it could be the handiwork of the same culprit(s). The police have launched a major search operation in the entire locality,” he added.

The provincial government on Tuesday evening sent a team of forensic experts to examine the crime scene as police discovered the bodies. The Punjab’s Additional-IG (Operations) also reached the tragedy hit district late Tuesday to supervise the investigations.

The incidents of child murders and rape are quite common in Punjab province. The latest killings of schoolchildren have sent shocking waves not only in district Kasur but also across the province.

The country’s biggest child abuse scandal had surfaced in the same district Kasur in 2015, involving criminal gangs producing and selling illicit videos of child sexual abuse in Ganda Singh Wala area of Kasur in Punjab province.

The police investigations into the massive child sexual abuse scandal had also revealed that around 400 videos were made of 280 minor victims of sexual abuse by an organised gang of over 25 criminals.

Several parents of victims were consistently blackmailed and coerced into paying hundreds of thousands of rupees with threats of releasing the videos in public. The victim families in the locality were helpless as police officials all along remained apathetic to the incident.