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Anti-French Protesters Clash With Police For Second Day In Pakistan

Religious Activists Clash With Police In Pakistan
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Thousands of supporters of an extremist party have clashed with police for a second day in Pakistan, demanding the release of their leader, who was arrested after calling for the French ambassador to be kicked out of the country.

Two police officers died after being wounded in clashes in Lahore, the country's second-biggest city, authorities said, while the Tehrik-e Labaik Pakistan (TLP) party said three of its supporters were killed.

Police have not commented on the reported TLP deaths.

Saad Rizvi, the head of the TLP, was arrested in Lahore on April 12 to "maintain law and order."

Police said onApril 13 that he had been charged under anti-terrorism laws.

The TLP has demanded that the government expel the French ambassador over France's defense of the right to publish cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad.

Rizvi's arrest swiftly attracted condemnation from his supporters, who gathered near the party's main office in Lahore for a protest.

Clashes soon erupted between Rizvi's supporters and police, who used tear gas and water cannon to disperse the crowd.

TLP supporters also rallied on the outskirts of the capital, Islamabad, and protesters also blocked some roads in the southern port city of Karachi.

The protests have raised fears of violence amid a surge in cases of coronavirus in Pakistan.

In November, thousands of TLP supporters clashed with police and occupied a major intersection leading into Islamabad, blocking access into the city.

The Islamist group ended the blockade after the government promised to discuss the expulsion of the French ambassador.

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

Macron's comments came after a schoolteacher was killed by an Islamist for showing caricatures of Prophet Muhammad, originally published in the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, during a lesson on freedom of expression last month.

Any depiction of Muhammad is forbidden in Islam and is deemed offensive by Muslims.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan had said that "the rising tides of Islamophobia" in Europe and ridicule of the Prophet Muhammad bred extremism among Muslim youths.

With reporting by AFP and AP
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