ISLAMABAD A young man has stabbed at least 25 women this month in a small Pakistani town, police said on Monday, and many women and girls are afraid to leave their homes.
"Most of the incidents have happened after sunset, but some schoolgirls were also attacked while going back home after school," said Haseeb-ul-Hassan, the spokesman for Sahiwal District in eastern Punjab province.
"We cannot confirm the total number of incidents, but it's between 25 to 30."
Doctors say most of the women in the town of Chichawatni, 450 km (300 miles) south of the capital, were stabbed on the legs, stomach or back. The attacker's motives are unclear, although police said he may be insane.
"Most of the women were stabbed after sunset, while two of them were wearing a burqa at the time they were attacked," Dr. Asim Waqar at Chichawatni hospital said by telephone.
He was referring to the head-to-toe garment with a mesh opening for the eyes that women in conservative areas must wear in the overwhelmingly Muslim country.
His hospital received its first case on October 6 and has seen two or three cases a day since. Some victims have required stitches or surgery.
In the most recent attack, a man on a motorbike dismounted and stabbed a 22-year-old woman multiple times as she was standing outside her house with her sister, Waqar said.
The police are hunting a single attacker, Chichawatni Station House Officer Tahir Aijaz told Reuters. They have announced a reward equivalent to $2,000 for his arrest.
Many victims who sought treatment have not reported the attacks because the police have a poor reputation and they are forbidden by tradition to speak to strange men. Police said that many women or girls now feared to go out at night or to school.
Violence against women is common in Pakistan and activists say several are murdered each day. Underfunded police rarely solve the cases, which can take years to work their way through congested courts.
(Editing By Katharine Houreld and Ron Popeski)