Radical Islamic leader calls for new cartoon protests in Pakistan

The head of a radical Islamic political coalition was released from house detention in Pakistan and called for more protests against cartoon depictions of the Prophet Muhammad, his deputy said Monday.

Qazi Hussain Ahmed was among hundreds of Islamic hard-liners arrested before a banned protest Sunday that led to a three hour clash between protesters and police in Pakistan's capital, Islamabad.

The government has been cracking down on the demonstrations that turned violent last week, killing five people in two cities.

After being released late Sunday, Ahmed called for more rallies against the cartoons, published mostly in Europe, said Liaqat Baluch, a senior figure in Ahmed's six-party coalition.

"Our protests will continue. The European countries should realize the sentiments of Muslims. They should apologize to the Muslim world," Baluch said.

The wave of protests should begin after midday prayers on Friday, Baluch quoted Ahmed as saying.

On Sunday, officials were anxious to avoid a repeat of the violent riots that erupted last week. Thousands of police and paramilitary forces, some in armored personnel carriers, others behind sandbag bunkers, were deployed in and around Islamabad to block the planned rally.

The protest was organized by Ahmed's coalition of hardline Islamic parties, Mutahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) or United Action Forum. The MMA sympathizes with the former Taliban regime in Afghanistan and is fiercely anti-U.S.

Authorities mounted roadblocks around the capital and declared they would arrest anyone joining a gathering of more than five people, reports the AP.


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