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At Least One Killed, 150 Injured In Operation Against Islamabad Protest

Pakistani Police Launch Operation To Clear Islamist Rally
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ISLAMABAD -- Pakistani security forces have clashed violently with hard-line religious protesters in Islamabad -- with at least one police officer killed and more than 150 people injured after authorities launched an operation to clear a key intersection linking Pakistan's capital with the nearby garrison city of Rawalpindi.

Meanwhile, Pakistan's media regulator barred local TV channels from broadcasting live footage from the scene as the violence intensified on November 25.

An Islamabad police spokesman confirmed that a policeman had died during the fighting after he was struck in the head by a rock.

An AFP journalist at the scene of the violence reporting seeing what appeared to be the dead body of at least one demonstrator lying on the road.

A spokesman for the Pakistani Institute of Medical Sciences in Islamabad told REFE/RL that 150 injured people had been taken to the hospital for treatment.

The hospital spokesman said 101 of the injured people were members of the security forces.

About 2,000 supporters of an Islamist group, the Tehreek-e Labaik Ya Rasool Allah party, have been camped out at the intersection for three weeks.

About 8,500 elite police and paramilitary troops in riot gear began clearing the protesters from the intersection shortly after dawn on November 25.

The operation came after a court ordered the protest to stop, saying it had disrupted normal activity in the city.

The authorities had given the demonstrators until midnight to end their sit-in demonstration that began on November 6 and blocked a main road into Islamabad that is used by thousands of commuters.

Police initially arrested dozens of people after using tear gas to disperse protesters who were resisting by throwing stones.

The protesters have been demanding that Pakistani Law Minister Zahid Hamid resign over a hastily abandoned amendment to the oath that election candidates must swear.

The oath omitted reference to the Prophet Muhammad, which the protesters say is blasphemy.

The demonstrators also claim that the oath was softened in order to allow the participation in elections of Ahmadis, a long-persecuted Islamic minority sect whose members are considered non-Muslims by mainstream Sunni Muslims.

With reporting by AP and AFP