Police have clashed with pro-Taleban demonstrators in central Pakistan, killing at least three protesters and injuring four others.
Police say the deaths came during exchanges of gunfire after about five thousand demonstrators blocked a major highway and railway line, halting train service in the town of Dera Ghazi Khan about 500 kilometers southwest of Islamabad. Reports from the scene say police charged the crowd after demonstrators set a police van on fire and took several officers hostage. Four police officers were injured in the clashes.
The protesters were responding to calls by an alliance of 35 pro-Taleban groups (The Afghan Defense Council) for a general strike and a day of protests against the government and its support for the anti-terrorist campaign in Afghanistan. Police were out in force throughout the country in response to the protest calls.
Earlier, police officers used tear gas against demonstrators in the northwestern city of Peshawar, near the Afghanistan border, and in the southern port city of Karachi, where protesters blocked road traffic. Protests were also reported in Lahore and Rawalpindi.
Authorities detained at least 500 religious activists in overnight raids designed to limit the scale of the protests.