LAHORE, Pakistan — A man suspected in the rape and killing of a 7-year-old girl has been arrested and has confessed to hers and at least seven other child killings, Punjab province’s top official said Tuesday.

At a news conference in the provincial capital of Lahore, Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif identified the suspect as Mohammed Imran, 24, who was arrested near Kasur.

The breakthrough came in what officials are calling a serial murder case and which has stirred outrage across the country. The 7-year-old child, Zainab Ansari, was assaulted and her body thrown in a garbage dump in Kasur early this month.

Imran did not immediately have legal representation, officials said.

Sharif said the provincial forensics lab processed 1,150 samples of DNA before arresting Imran.

“The beast has confessed to have committed the past such crimes,” he said. “His DNA was matched 100 percent with samples collected from crime scenes.”

Ansari’s killing exposed a string of child abductions and slayings by a suspected serial predator.

Sharif appealed to the chief justice of Lahore High Court to ensure a quick trial for Imran.

“If the law permits and the court allows, I wish to hang such a beast publicly,” said Sharif, adding: “If this is done, there will be no killing of children by any other beast in future.”

Zainab’s father, Mohammed Amin Ansari, sat next to the chief minister at the news conference. He expressed satisfaction with the investigation.