Pakistani police killed three protesters Friday during nationwide demonstrations against U.S. policies in Afghanistan. Authorities detained about 500 activists in advance of Friday's protests, which were also directed at Pakistani support for the international coalition against terrorism.
The demonstrators were killed when police opened fire on a violent protest in the Dera Ghazi Khan district in Punjab province. The area is 100 kilometers from the city of Multan, and about 600 kilometers south of Islamabad. The demonstrators belonged to the radical Jamiat-Ulema-i-Islami party. Police say the protesters blocked a rail line and a highway and set fire to a police vehicle.
JUI General Secretary Ghafor Haider says millions of Pakistanis support his party's opposition to the air strikes and to Pakistan's government for offering support to the U.S. led coalition.
Speaking through a translater, Mr. Haider said his group "has the support of the people of Pakistan street power is with us, the people are with us."
Government officials were unavailable for comment Friday because of a national holiday to mark the birthday of Allama Iqbal, Pakistan's national poet who rose to prominence in the early part of the 20th century.
Mr. Haider's JUI party was just one of about 35 parties under the umbrella of the Afghan Defense council who called the nationwide strike and protest on Friday. Anticipating trouble Pakistani authorities rounded up about 500 Islamic activists late Thursday and early Friday including JUI leader Fazle ur-Rehman who was detained in a government gust house.
Elsewhere, police dispersed about 2,000 stone-throwing protesters in the port city of Karachi - but most Pakistani cities were quiet on Friday - with all government offices, schools and many business closed for the holiday, making it difficult to gauge the effect of the strike call.