Islamabad, Apr 19 (EFE).- Supporters of a banned Islamist group have freed 11 police officers from their captivity after holding them hostage for several hours, the government said Monday, after days of violent protests following the arrest of their leader.
Negotiations continue between the Islamists and the government to end the stalemate over continued demonstrations over the controversial cartoons depicting Prophet Muhammad.
“They have set free 11 abducted policemen,” Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid said in a video message posted on Twitter.
The minister said the government secured the release of the police officers after a successful first round of negotiations.
Fresh protests broke out in the eastern city of Lahore Sunday afternoon when police tried to clear the Yateem Khana Chowk area.
Activists of the far-right Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) group responded by attacking a police station.
Eleven police officers suffered injuries during the clashes and another 11 were taken hostage by the TLP members.
The TLP said three of its members died in the clashes, and another 20 were injured Sunday.
The authorities have, however, not confirmed the TLP claim.
Rashid said the Islamists had taken refuge in a mosque and hoped that the hostilities would cease after a new round of negotiations.
Violent protests have gripped Pakistan since Apr.12 following the arrest of TLP leader Saad Rizvi.
The group is calling on the Pakistani government to expel the French ambassador and cut ties with France as part of a fallout triggered by a debate about the publication of cartoons of the Prophet.
Thousands of TLP members blocked roads up and down the country, paralyzing transport in some areas.
At least four people have been killed and 580 injured so far in the unrest.
The government banned the organization on Thursday.
Tensions with France broke out in October last year over President Emmanuel Macron’s allegedly “blasphemous” comments on Islam and his defense of the cartoons, after a teacher in the European country was beheaded for showing the caricatures of the Prophet to his students. EFE