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Pakistani police raided the home of former prime minister Khan, who was arrested at the age of 61

LAHORE, Islamabad (AP) — Pakistani police stormed former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s residence in the eastern city of Lahore on Saturday and arrested 61 people amid tear gas and clashes between Khan’s supporters and police, they said. officials said.

Senior police officer Suhail Sukhera, who led the operation in an upscale neighborhood of Lahore, said police moved to remove a barricade erected by members of Khan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf party and its rebel supporters. He said they blocked lanes around Khan’s residence with concrete blocks, cut down trees, tents and a parked truck.

Khan was not at home, having traveled to Islamabad to appear before a judge to face charges of selling state gifts while in office and concealing his assets. The judge adjourned the hearing until March 30.

Sukhera said Khan’s cane-wielding supporters tried to resist police by throwing stones and Molotov cocktails, and a man on the roof of Khan’s residence opened fire. At least three policemen were injured.

Sukhera said police broke down the main door of Khan’s residence and found automatic weapons, Molotov cocktails, iron bars and batons used in attacks on police during the week. Sukhera said illegal structures were erected in the sprawling residence to house people involved in attacks on police that injured dozens of officers.

Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah later said police would conduct a thorough search of Khan’s home, where they found bunkers and suspected other illegal weapons and ammunition were hidden. He said that in Islamabad, Khan and many of his supporters were armed.

Witnesses in Lahore said police tried to disperse Khan’s supporters by firing tear gas and chased them into several houses in the Zaman Park neighborhood. Khan’s lawyer appeared in an Islamabad court on Saturday after a higher court on Friday suspended Khan’s arrest warrant, giving him a reprieve to travel to Islamabad and face charges in the corruption case without being arrested.

Khan has been holed up in his home in Lahore since Tuesday after failing to appear at an earlier hearing in the case. His supporters threw stones and clashed with baton-wielding police for two days to protect the former prime minister from arrest.

Khan’s call came on Saturday near the Federal Judicial Complex in Islamabad, where his supporters also clashed with police who barred them from entering the complex. Angry Khan’s supporters pelted stones at the police, who responded by firing tear gas to disperse them.

Khan’s lawyer, Babar Awan, filed an application for Khan’s exemption from appearing in court based on special circumstances.

Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar condemned Khan for not surrendering to the police and appearing in court on Saturday despite reaching the gate of the judicial complex. He accused Khan of using his protesting supporters to avoid prosecution.

Khan’s supporter torched two police vehicles and several motorcycles outside the court complex while dispersing, according to the law minister.

Khan, during his trip to Islamabad, said in a video message that police raided his residence in Lahore while his wife was alone in the house. He condemned the action and demanded that those responsible be punished.

Khan’s PTI party general secretary Asad Umar noted in a letter to the Chief Justice of Pakistan that the police waited until Khan headed to Islamabad to search his residence in Lahore. He said “doors and walls were broken down” and more than 40 people in the house were arrested.

Khan, now leader of the opposition, was ousted by a no-confidence vote in Parliament last April. He is accused of selling state gifts while in office and of hiding assets, charges he denies. It is one of a string of cases the former cricket star turned Islamist politician has faced since his ouster.

Khan, 70, who called for early parliamentary elections, said his ouster was part of a conspiracy by his successor, Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif, and the United States. Both the Washington and Sharif governments have denied the allegation.

Associated Press writer Zarar Khan in Islamabad contributed.

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