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3 dead, 70 wounded in Pakistan during demonstration by banned group

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On Wednesday, thousands of demonstrators from a banned Pakistani Islamist group had clashed with police outside Lahore, killing and wounding several, the police and the group said, in a row about a French magazine’s cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad, Reuters reported.

A spokesman for the Punjab police said that the clashes broke out at a rally of the banned Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) on a highway in Sheikhupura, outside the eastern city of Lahore.

He said that TLP activists used SMG, AK-47 and pistols to target police officials as a result of which several police officials were martyred, Reuters reported.

The interior minister told reporters that three police officers had been killed and 70 wounded, adding that the government had deployed paramilitary troops in the Pakistani province of Punjab to manage the situation.

He further said that “they will be there for 60 days, I had given them authority that they can go anywhere they want in Punjab”. “I’m still warning the TLP to please back off”, Reuters reported.

The group said that several of its activists had also been killed or wounded.

This is the group’s third countrywide protest campaign since 2017 over a series of caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad published in the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. Such caricatures are considered deeply insulting by Muslims.

Charlie Hebdo first published the cartoons in 2006 and republished them last year to mark the opening of a trial over a deadly attack on the magazine by Islamist militants in 2015.

Pakistani Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said the government will use force to block the Islamists from entering the capital of Islamabad.

Thousands of TLP activists had blocked Pakistan’s busiest highway since Friday, demanding the release of their leader and the expulsion of France’s ambassador.

After negotiations with the government failed, the demonstrators began marching towards the capital Islamabad on Wednesday.

Districts along the Grand Trunk Road were brought to a standstill where the city administration had already placed shipping containers to block entry and exit routes.

The police said they had tried to block the march, which triggered the clashes.

 

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