Pakistani police have arrested a key suspect behind the rape and murder of Zainab Ansari. He was apprehended after DNA samples picked from the girl's body matched his.

Local media identified the suspect as Imran Khan, about 35, who lived in Zainab's neighbourhood, Kot Road in Kasur. The Punjab government is expected to reveal more information about the arrest shortly.

In a case which had sent shockwaves across Pakistan, Zainab's body was found from a heap of trash on 9 January – five days after she had gone missing. A medical examination later found the victim was raped before she was strangled to death. The exact age of Zainab is still unclear with reports suggesting it was between six and eight.

Khan, who is said to have confessed to the crime, is thought to be a relative of the victim and was earlier thought to be a serial killer. Reports also say Khan's appearance matches with the images of the suspect caught on CCTV footage recovered by the police.

Khan was originally detained by authorities during the initial stages of the investigation but was later let go for lack of evidence at that time.

Earlier, a 23-year-old suspect was taken into custody but was later released since the DNA findings did not incriminate him in the murder.

Zainab's rape and murder had prompted widespread protests not just in Kasur but across the country, with mobs going violent against the police and lawmakers in some areas. Following that, the Punjab government had set up a special joint investigation team to find the murderer.