Rangers, cops held hostage by anti-France protesters in Pakistan
At least seven Pakistan police officers and special rangers were taken hostage on Sunday by supporters of a radical Islamist party, officials said, after days of violent anti-France protests.
Rioting has rocked the country since Monday, when the leader of the now-banned Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) was detained in Lahore after calling for the expulsion of the French ambassador. The TLP has been behind an anti-France campaign for months since President Emmanuel Macron defended the right of Charlie Hebdo magazine to republish cartoons depicting Prophet Mohammed -- an act deemed blasphemous in Pakistan.
The protests have paralysed cities and led to the deaths of six policemen.
“The TLP members are holding five police officers and two rangers hostage,” said Rana Arif, a police spokesman in Lahore. Firdous Ashiq Awan, a spokeswoman for the Punjab provincial government, said 12 policemen had been abducted and taken to a TLP mosque in Lahore.
“Violent groups armed with petrol bombs and acid bottles stormed the Nawankot police station this morning,” she tweeted. TLP leaders say several of the party’s supporters were killed in Sunday’s clashes.
An oil truck was seized and petrol bombs thrown at officers, both Arif and Awan said.