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Three People Killed As Pakistani Police Clash With Group Demanding French Envoy's Expulsion

Supporters of the hard-line Tehrik-e Labaik Pakistan chant slogans as they block a street during a protest after their leader was detained following his calls for the expulsion of the French ambassador, in Lahore on April 16.

Pakistani officials say at least three people have been killed in fresh clashes between police and supporters of a banned Islamist group seeking the expulsion of the French envoy over the publication of cartoons in France depicting the Prophet Muhammad.

Police spokesman Rana Arif in the eastern city of Lahore said followers of the hard-line Tehrik-e Labaik Pakistan (TLP) party attacked the police headquarters with a petrol bomb on April 18 and took six security personnel hostage.

Asif said that 20 people, including 11 police officers, were wounded in the clashes.

The group had given the government an April 20 deadline to expel the French ambassador over last year’s publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet -- deemed blasphemous by many Muslims.

The authorities responded by arresting the group’s leader on April 12, in a move that prompted supporters to hold protests and sit-ins across the country.

At least five people, including two police officers, have been killed in the anti-French rallies, which on April 15 prompted France’s embassy in Islamabad to urge French nationals to leave Pakistan. Islamabad banned the party after the violence.

Anti-France protests have erupted in several Muslim countries, including Pakistan, since October of last year after French President Emmanuel Macron defended the right to publish cartoons, including those deemed offensive by some Muslims.

The cartoons had been republished by the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo to mark the opening of the trial over the deadly 2015 attack against the publication for the original caricatures.

Based on reporting by AP, dpa, and Reuters