Seven dead in TLP’s march to Islamabad

A day after clashes, supporters of the banned party rally ahead without facing any police resistance

A radical Islamist party on Saturday said seven of its supporters have died in clashes with authorities in Pakistan’s eastern city of Lahore after two police officers were killed in the unrest.

The number of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) protesters swelled by thousands on Saturday evening as supporters of the hardline party began marching towards the capital Islamabad without facing any further resistance from police.

Scores of the group’s supporters had gathered after Friday prayers to demand the release of their detained leader, blocking roads and firing projectiles in deadly clashes with police.

The TLP has previously been behind major anti-France protests that earlier this year led to the embassy issuing a warning for all French citizens to leave the country.

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“Death toll of TLP supporters rose to seven after two more people succumbed to their injuries caused by police firing,” the party tweeted on Saturday.

Police in Lahore would not comment on the claim, but on Friday night said two of its officers had died.

“The clashes are still ongoing,” Rana Arif, a spokesman for Lahore police, said.

“This is a defensive operation by police against the mob… We are doing shelling to control the crowd.”

TLP leader Saad Rizvi was arrested in April when Pakistan’s government outlawed the party in response to violent anti-France protests.

In Islamabad, police have closed off roads using shipping containers.

Minister returns

The party has vowed not to end the protests or enter talks with the government until their leader is released.

Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmad, who was in Dubai to watch Pakistan compete in the T20 cricket World Cup, returned home on Prime Minister Imran Khan’s directive to monitor the situation.

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