Rest of Asia

Pakistan extremists release 11 police hostages after anti-France protests

Filed on April 19, 2021
Photo: AFP

The officers were grabbed as hostages on Sunday by supporters of the TLP during violent protests in Lahore.

Eleven Pakistani police officers seized by supporters of a radical group campaigning to get the French ambassador expelled have been released, officials said Monday.

The officers were grabbed and taken as hostages during the latest violent clashes between police and Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) protesters in Lahore.

A video circulating on social media, confirmed by a police source, showed some of them bloodied and bruised, with bandages around their heads.

Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said on Monday that “11 policemen who were made hostages” had been released after talks with the TLP, which the government banned last week after effectively labelling it a terrorist organisation.

“Negotiations have been started with TLP; the first round completed successfully,” said Rashid in a video on Twitter.

Lahore police confirmed the release of the hostages, adding that one of the group was a ranger from the country’s paramilitary force.

The officers had been held at a TLP mosque stronghold in Lahore, which is now packed with supporters and surrounded by police.

Rioting has rocked the country for the past week since the leader of the TLP was detained in Lahore after calling for a march on the capital to evict the French ambassador.

The protests have paralysed cities and led to the deaths of six policemen.

TLP leaders say several of the party’s supporters have also been killed and many wounded in clashes.

Calls for a nationwide strike in solidarity with the TLP has been widely supported by mainstream religious groups.

On Monday, shops and markets in Lahore and Karachi were closed and some transport services halted.

Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government has struggled to bring TLP to heel over the years, but this week announced an outright ban against the group.

On Monday he called for an end to the violence.

Last week the French embassy in Pakistan advised its nationals to leave the country — a call that appears to have gone largely unheeded.

Previously the TLP had set an April 20 deadline for the ambassador’s expulsion.

Interior minister Rashid said a second round of negotiations would take place later on Monday, although it was not clear what they would discuss.

Lahore police said on Monday that TLP supporters were refusing to bury the dead bodies of supporters being held at the mosque.

Also at the site was an oil tanker seized by crowds on Sunday.

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