ISLAMABAD (AP) — The Latest on radical Islamists who have been protesting for the last four days outside Pakistan’s parliament (all times local):
President Barack Obama has offered condolences to Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif over an Easter bombing that killed more than 70 people in Lahore.
The White House said in a statement Wednesday that the “callous and appalling attack” on Sunday, whose victims included many women and children, underscores the “critical danger” terrorism poses everywhere.
Obama told Sharif that he understands the prime minister’s decision to cancel an upcoming visit to the U.S.
Sharif had planned to attend Obama’s nuclear security summit in Washington later this week. He called off the trip after the bombing.
Pakistan’s interior minister says hundreds of Islamists protesting the hanging of a policeman who had shot and killed a secular governor have ended their rally outside parliament.
Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan says the protesters began dispersing Wednesday after he had earlier warned that the government would use force if they failed to depart peacefully.
Awais Noorani, one of the protest leaders, called on demonstrators to disperse, saying a deal had been reached with the government.
The interior minister denied any agreement had been reached, but said religious leaders had helped convince the protesters to leave the area.
The protesters were demanding strict Shariah law after the hanging of police officer Mumtaz Qadri, who killed Gov. Salman Taseer in 2011 over his opposition to the country’s far-ranging blasphemy laws.
They also demanded the hanging of a Christian woman Taseer had defended against blasphemy allegations, and asked that Qadri be declared a national martyr.
Khan says police have detained more than 1,000 protesters over the last four days, and would only release those not implicated in violence.
Pakistan’s interior minister has warned hundreds of radical Islamists rallying for the past four days in central Islamabad to disperse peacefully and end their protest within hours.
The minister, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, said late Tuesday that if the Islamists fail to do so, the government would disperse them by force.
The rally turned violent on Sunday, when more than 10,000 Islamists from Pakistan’s Sunni Tehreek group descended on the capital to denounce last month’s hanging of officer Mumtaz Qadri for the 2011 murder of secular Gov. Salman Taseer who had campaigned against Pakistan’s harsh blasphemy laws.
Since the start of the rally, the crowds have dwindled down to about 1,200 people. The protesters also demand the hanging of a jailed Christian woman whom Taseer had defended against blasphemy allegations.
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