Protests over US-made film across Pakistan

Three killed in Pakistan film protests

Deadly clashes flared Friday as thousands took to the streets across Pakistan to denounce a US-made film that has fanned global Muslim anger, inflamed further by French cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.

The government declared Friday a national holiday but despite its call for peaceful protests, at least one person was killed and there were skirmishes in several cities on a second consecutive day of isolated violence.

Thousands of protesters gathered in Peshawar, the second city of Lahore and the central city of Multan, where they burnt US flags and set tyres alight. In Lahore, police used tear gas to disperse the crowds, AFP reporters said.

There were also violent demonstrations in the capital Islamabad and in Rawalpindi.

Across the Islamic world, Western missions went on high alert, fearing further escalation of a 10-day violent backlash over the low-budget film "Innocence of Muslims" that has spread to 20 countries and left more than 30 people dead.

France, where a magazine this week published a series of cartoons mocking the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH), has shut embassies, consulates, cultural centres and schools in 20 Muslim countries, fearing that the backlash will spread from US targets.

In the northwestern city of Peshawar, a mob set fire to and ransacked two cinemas, a driver for a TV station was shot dead and 20 other people were wounded by bullets, tear gas and stones, said the head of the Lady Reading Hospital.

And in Islamabad, police baton-charged protesters to keep them back, but the mob surged past the first of three barricades erected on the main road leading to the heavily guarded diplomatic enclave, an AFP reporter said.

There were a few skirmishes as officers fired tear gas and members of the crowd threw stones, shouting "Americans are dogs" and "Friends of America are traitors", setting fire to an effigy of a nameless American.

One photographer was bleeding from a head wound, said an AFP reporter, as helicopters circled overhead and the crowd swelled to around 5,000 after the main weekly prayers, at which clerics called for peaceful rallies.

Among the crowd were flag bearers for Sipah-e-Sabah, a banned terrorist group that is violently anti-Shiite Muslim.

In Rawalpindi, the headquarters of Pakistan's powerful military, scores of demonstrators pelted cars and police with stones, and burnt down a booth at a toll plaza, police official Mohammad Munir said.

An AFP reporter said police fired tear gas and live rounds into the air in a bid to disperse stone throwers and protesters at the entry point to Islamabad, which was blocked off by shipping containers.

The mob set fire to a police checkpost, where smoke billowed out into the sky, carried placards inscribed with "Down with America" and "Death to Blasphemers".

"Participating in the procession is submitting to the will of Allah almighty, that's why I am participating. I would prefer to die to safeguard the honour of my beloved Prophet," 16-year-old protester Sami Ullah told AFP.

The government declared Friday a "day of love for the prophet" but for most of the morning and early afternoon shut down mobile telephone networks in an apparent bid to prevent Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked extremists from exploiting the protests to carry out bomb attacks.

"It is our collective responsibility to protest peacefully without causing harm or damage to life or property," said Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf as shops, markets and petrol stations shut en masse in an unprecedented closure.

Washington has warned citizens not to travel to Pakistan and spent $70,000 to air TV adverts in Pakistan disassociating the US government from the film.

In Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation, dozens torched an American flag outside the US consulate in Medan. In the city of Surabaya, protesters chanted "crush America, crush France" outside the French consulate.

Demonstrators also scuffled with several hundred police in riot gear outside a McDonald's restaurant in Surabaya over the crudely made film, believed to have been made by extremist Christians in the United States.

In Malaysia, about 3,000 Muslims marched on the US embassy, burning an American flag topped with the Jewish Star of David in an otherwise peaceful protest.

In the Arab world, authorities were also braced for demonstrations, with an Islamist militia in Libya's second city Benghazi calling for protests and demonstrations planned in Lebanon and the occupied West Bank.

US interests have born the brunt of protests against the film, which depicts Mohammed as a thuggish sexual deviant. This week, French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo also printed cartoons caricaturing the founder of Islam.

The French interior ministry says it will deny all requests to protest against the film after a demonstration near the US embassy in Paris turned violent, but news of the cartoons has appeared slow to filter into Islamic countries.

The magazine's editor, Stephane Charbonnier, mocked those angered by the cartoons as "ridiculous clowns" and accused the French government of pandering to them by criticising the magazine for being provocative.

The United States is still investigating a deadly attack on one its consulate in Benghazi on September 11 that left four Americans dead, including the ambassador.

The White House says the FBI suspect that Al-Qaeda may have been linked to the attack, but it remains unclear whether it was a pre-planned assault or whether it sprang out of a protest against the film.

Three killed

 

At least three people died in Pakistan on Friday, including a police officer and a driver working for television, during a day of protests condemning a US-made film that has insulted Muslims, officials said.

The policeman was killed and two others wounded in an exchange of fire with protesters in Karachi, the country's largest city, police official Mohammad Shakeel said.

Thousands took to the streets in a series of different demonstrations across Karachi, home to an estimated 18 million, to condemn the film, "Innocence of Muslims".

Scuffles broke out when protesters tried to march towards the US consulate, throwing stones at police and trying to remove shipping containers that blocked the road, police said.

Officers fired off tear gas shells and fired into the air to disperse the crowd, but three policemen were wounded by gunfire from an unknown direction, Shakeel said.

"They were shifted to hospital where one of our constables died," he added.

In the northwestern city of Peshawar, a TV station employee also died Friday after being shot when protesters set alight and ransacked a cinema.

"He was shot in the chest. He was put on a ventilator after surgery but could not survive," said Doctor Mukhtar Khan, head of the Lady Reading Hospital.

Doctor Farman at Khyber Teaching Hospital, who used only one name, later confirmed that another body had been brought in after the demonstrations.

Hospital doctors in Peshawar gave a combined total of 60 people wounded.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik said he had ordered an investigation into the TV station employee's death and repeated government calls for protests to remain peaceful.

ARY, the man's employer, accused the police of murder.

"We consider this incident murder. We strongly condemn it. The policeman involved in the firing incident should be arrested immediately and sacked," said senior ARY executive Owais Tohid.

The channel broadcast disturbing footage of its employee, clearly in a critical condition and receiving urgent medical care in hospital.

Friday's deaths brings to five the number of people killed in Pakistan during protests over the past week against a trailer for the crudely made film, made by extremist Christians in the United States.

 

 

10,000 Bangladeshis protest anti-Islam film

About 10,000 Bangladeshis took to the streets of Dhaka on Friday to demonstrate against an anti-Islam film made in the US and cartoons in a French satirical magazine caricaturing the Prophet Mohammed.

The protesters, many carrying banners from half a dozen Islamist groups, burnt an effigy of Barack Obama outside the national Baitul Mokarram Mosque, the country's largest, after Friday prayers.

They also set fire to a French flag as they carried placards and banners reading "Obama, you are a cheater", "Protest the disgrace of Prophet Muhammed!"

Security was tightened around the protest area with the deployment of hundreds of police and elite Rapid Action Battalion, armoured personnel carriers and water cannon.

French authorities in Bangladesh also shut down three cultural centres and the French embassy in the capital, police said.

About 90 percent of Bangladesh's 153 million people are Muslims.

The government has condemned the film and blocked the video-sharing website YouTube, where the film was uploaded.

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