June 19, 2013
Pakistan: protesters clash with police over film, 9 dead
Demonstrators clashed with police in the Pakistani city of Peshawar today as anger over insults to the boiled over despite calls from political and religious leaders across the Muslim world for peaceful protest.
A Pakistani policeman was shot dead on, bringing to nine the number killed during a day of protests condemning a film made in the United States and deemed insulting to Islam, officials said.
Western diplomatic missions throughout the Muslim world tightened security, with some closing down on expectation of big protests after Friday prayers.
An anti-Islam film made in America has enraged Muslims and led to days of protests across the Muslim world while cartoons mocking the Prophet Mohammad published in a French magazine on Wednesday were expected to compound the anger.
Egypt's highest Islamic legal official said yesterday Muslims should follow his example of enduring insults without retaliating. But the call looked unlikely to calm the outrage.
"An attack upon the Holy Prophet is an attack on the whole 1.5 billion Muslims. Therefore, this is something unacceptable," Pakistani Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf said in a speech to politicians, religious leaders and others.
Pakistan has declared Friday a "Day of Love for the Prophet Mohammad". Critics of the unpopular government said it was pandering to Islamist parties.
Protesters took to the streets of the Pakistani city of Peshawar, an old frontier town on the main road to Afghanistan, and torched two cinemas and clashed with riot police who tried to disperse them with teargas.
At least five protesters were hurt, a doctor at the city's main hospital said. The ARY television station said an employee had been killed.
Near the capital, Islamabad, protesters set fire to a motorway toll booth. The previous day, about 1,000 stone-throwing protesters clashed with police as they tried to force their way to the US embassy.
The government shut down mobile phone services in more than a dozen cities as part of security arrangements ahead of protests expected today.
The US embassy in Pakistan has been running television advertisements, one featuring Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, saying the government had nothing to do with the film.
The US and French embassies were closed in Jakarta, capital of Indonesia, which has the world's biggest Muslim population, and diplomatic missions in the Afghan capital, Kabul, were on lock-down.
Police in Kabul said they had been in contact with religious and community leaders to try to prevent violence.
About 10,000 Islamists gathered in the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka, after Friday prayers to chant anti-US and anti-French slogans. They burned those countries' flags and an effigy of US President Barack Obama.
The cartoons in France's Charlie Hebdo satirical weekly have provoked relatively little street anger, although about 100 Iranians demonstrated outside the French embassy in Tehran.
Western embassies tightened security in Sanaa, fearing the cartoons could lead to more unrest in the Yemeni capital where crowds attacked the US mission last week over an anti-Islam film made in America.
In Tunisia, the birthplace of the Arab Spring revolts, the Islamist-led government decreed a ban on protests planned on Friday against the cartoons. Four people died and almost 30 were wounded last week when protesters incensed by the movie about the Prophet Mohammad stormed the US embassy.