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Blasphemous Film: Two more killed as protests simmer

18 September, 2012

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KARACHI: Two protesters died in the country on Monday as a violent backlash against the anti-Islam film spread across the region and angry demonstrators clashed with police, hurling stones and shouting slogans.

Thousands of students burned US flags and chanted anti-American slogans in Peshawar. In the nearby district of Upper Dir, a protester was killed and two others wounded in a shootout with police. The crowd of about 800 people set fire to a magistrate's house and the local press club. Two people were wounded in the incident in Warai, in the Upper Dir district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, police said.

In Karachi, another demonstrator died after being shot in the head during clashes with police near the US consulate on Sunday. Around 100 people roamed roads and alleys near the sprawling consulate. Police fired in the air, resorted to tear gas shelling and baton charge on the rally of the Islami Jamiat Talaba (IJT) that was marching towards the US consulate from Govt Commerce College.

Demonstrators pelted security personnel with stones and managed to reach the consulate. In the ensuing clash between the two parties, a police vehicle was damaged and 20 students were injured, whereas police also arrested over 70 students.

IJT Karachi Nazim Waqas Aazmi while addressing protesters said the film hurt the sentiments of Muslims across the world, and Pakistani students wanted to record their protest, but police forcibly closed colleges at 11am and suspended academic activities to stop the rally. He said when the students wanted to protest in front of the US consulate, police brutally tortured them, which they strictly condemned. He demanded the government ban the film and record its protest by suspension of relations with the American consulate and legislating on blasphemy.

Jamaat-e-Islami Karachi chief Muhammad Hussain Mehanti expressed concern over aerial firing, tear gas shelling and baton charge by police on peaceful demonstrators and condemned the incident.

Traffic from PIDC to the US consulate was blocked following the announcement of IJT to protest, while a large number of police and Rangers personnel were deployed to keep protesters away from the consulate.

The US Embassy in Islamabad said it had suspended public services due to the potential for demonstrations near the compound.

In Lahore, around 1,100 charged protesters of Majlis-e-Wahdatul Muslimeen attacked the US consulate after crossing security barriers and burnt the American flag after taking it off from the building.

MWM activists managed to climb the walls of the consulate after crossing barbed wire placed on the road, as some of them laid down on the wire and chanted anti-American slogans.

Around 1,100 protesters, including 500 women and children, held a large demonstration before the press club and later marched towards the US consulate. Initially police tried to stop them but failed and started firing in the air to disperse the protesters. Police also resorted to heavy baton charge on the protesters.

Police official Rai Tahir said six policemen and some protesters were hurt. "We used tear gas and a baton charge," said Tahir. "We managed to push them back."

As many as 22 protesters were injured while 20 were arrested. Other protesters led by MWM Central Secretary Raja Nasir Jaferi and provincial secretary Abdul Khaliq Asadi held a sit-in until release of their fellow party members. Later, they dispersed peacefully.

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) on Monday said it had blocked 934 "anti-Islam websites" on the Internet and over 650 video postings, or URLs, on YouTube.

The move came after the Supreme Court ordered the blocking of "all anti-Islamic blasphemous videos on YouTube, including the recently launched anti-Islamic film that has sparked protests across the Muslim world".

End.

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