Clashes in Pakistan after TLP takes several police hostage

Pakistan- (Warsoor) – Police in Pakistan said a right-wing group has taken six security personnel hostage at its headquarters in Lahore on Sunday after a week of violent clashes following the arrest of the group’s leader.

Pakistan’s government banned Tehreek-e-Labbaik (TLP) Pakistan earlier this week after supporters took to the streets to protest against the arrest of their leader, Muslim scholar Saad Rizvi.

“Today in the early morning, miscreants attacked Nawankot Police Station where [paramilitary] Rangers and police officers were trapped inside the police station and [Deputy Superintendent] Nawankot [was] kidnapped,” read a statement from the provincial police in Punjab, of which Lahore is the capital.

The statement said the attackers were armed with petrol bombs and had stolen a tanker truck carrying 50,000 litres of petrol.

A senior police officer and two paramilitary staff were among the six being held by supporters of TLP, Lahore police spokesman Arif Rana told Reuters news agency.

Police said they have launched a security operation against the group in response to the attack.

Pakistani news channels have been barred from providing coverage of the group since it was banned, and on Sunday mobile and internet services were down in the area where clashes were taking place.

Addressing the media in the capital, Islamabad, Interior Minister Sheikh Rasheed said the situation in Lahore was “tense”, with an operation centring on the Yateem Khana intersection, about a kilometre (0.6 miles) from a TLP regional headquarters building.

Supporters of the TLP have been sharing videos on social media of what they said were clashes on Sunday with police, and hashtags supporting the group were trending in Pakistan on Sunday.

The videos, which Reuters could not independently verify, showed thousands of protesters clashing with police in riot gear, as clouds of tear gas hung in the air and the crackle of gunfire could be heard.

TLP spokesman Shafiq Amini told Reuters four supporters had been killed on Sunday and several others were wounded in the violence.