Four pro-Taliban, anti-U.S. demonstrators who were blocking a railway line have been shot dead by police in Pakistan. The group blocked the railway line with rocks, preventing a train from leaving. They also took three policemen as hostages, but later released them.

The police first used tear gas against them, and when the protesters responded by throwing stones, they opened fire. At least six other people were injured. In another town, police fired teargas at a crowd of protesters and elsewhere they rounded up demonstrators who were trying to block a main road.

A nationwide strike has been called by a coalition of religious political parties known as the Pakistan Afghan Defense Council. The strike coincides with a public holiday, so government offices and many businesses, schools and stores would have been closed anyway.

Since the U.S. bombing of Afghanistan began, the protests in Pakistan have been relatively small and they do not appear to be gaining in numbers, although many Pakistanis say they oppose the bombardment.

President Musharraf of Pakistan has called for an early end to the bombing campaign and asked for military strikes to be stopped during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which starts on November 17. President Bush says the bombing will continue over the Muslim religious holiday.

General Musharraf took control of the country in a military coup, so his leadership is shaky among many groups of Pakistanis. Two prominent religious leaders have been detained by the authorities and charges have been made against Qazi Ahmed, who has called on the military to overthrow Musharraf.

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