No letup in anti-film protests
19 September, 2012
PESHAWAR: Police used tear gas to disperse a crowd of more than 2,000 protesters trying to reach the US consulate in Peshawar on Tuesday, as fresh demonstrations erupted against an anti-Islam film.
Protesters chanting anti-US slogans and burning the Stars and Stripes flag gathered outside the mission in Peshawar to vent their fury at the film, which was made in America.
Around 2,000 people marched through Karachi towards the US consulate to protest against the film, which has triggered a week of deadly protests across the Muslim world.
Riot police with armoured vehicles were deployed to block access to the consulate in Peshawar.
"We used tear gas shells and lobbed gas grenades because the protesters were trying to come closer to the sensitive area," senior police officer Imtiaz Khan told AFP. He said more than 1,000 police were on hand to block the road to the US consulate.
Addressing the crowd, the local leader of the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), Shabbir Ahmed, lashed out at the United States, demanding the Pakistan government expel the American ambassador and close its missions in Pakistan. "We are ready to sacrifice our lives to uphold the dignity of our Prophet (PBUH)," he said.
In Lahore, up to 900 people demonstrated near the US consulate, chanting "Obama is a dog" and "Death to the USA".
Some 1,500 supporters of a pro-Taliban religious party held a protest rally in Chaman on the Afghan border, police and witnesses said.
The marchers, carrying banners and placards, chanted "Down with America", and "Hang the filmmakers" and "Long live Mullah Omar", "Long Live Taliban and Long Live Osama bin Laden", witnesses said. Some 1,500 people participated in the rally, local police officer Ghulam Rabbani said.
In Multan, hundreds of students, traders and local powerloom factory workers carried out separate rallies, police and residents said.
They blocked roads by burning tyres, and torched US flags and the effigy of the producer of the anti-Islam film, police said. A similar rally was held in the industrial city of Faisalabad.
The protests came after a female suicide bomber killed 12 people in Kabul on Tuesday in an attack claimed by an insurgent group as revenge for the film. The blast brought the total number killed in a week-long violent backlash against the film to 30.
There have been furious protests outside US embassies and other American symbols in at least 20 countries, with the American ambassador to Libya and three other US diplomats in the North African country among those killed.
In Pakistan two protesters died after demonstrating against the film in the northwest, close to the Afghan border, and outside the US consulate in Karachi.
Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan have all blocked access to YouTube, following the video-sharing website's failure to take down the anti-Islam film.
Protests against anti-Islam film continue in Asia
Protests against the anti-Islam film spread to Thailand and Indian-held Kashmir on Tuesday, while an insurgent group in Afghanistan claimed responsibility for a suicide attack it says was in response to the video.
The US Embassy in Bangkok closed at midday, ahead of the planned protest, but said it was not aware of any specific threat to Americans in Thailand. The protests in Srinagar, the main city in Kashmir, also turned violent as stone-throwing demonstrators clashed with police.
Meanwhile, al Qaeda's North African branch issued a statement calling for more attacks against US diplomats in retaliation for the low-budget film that mocks Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
The group specifically threatened attacks in Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco and Mauritania. Demonstrations and violence have hit around 20 countries since last week, when the American ambassador in Libya and three of his staff were killed in an attack on the US consulate in Benghazi.
Also on Tuesday, officials in Bangladesh said the country blocked access to YouTube in order to prevent people from seeing the video.
Pakistan ordered its own block on Monday after Google, which owns the video-sharing website, refused to remove the clip. Google has barred access to the video, itself, in Libya, Egypt, Indonesia and India. On Monday, the leader of the Shia group Hezbollah called for sustained protests in a rare public appearance before thousands of supporters at a rally in the Lebanese capital, Beirut.
Syed Hassan Nasrallah accused US spy agencies of being behind events that have unleashed a wave of anti-Western sentiment in the Muslim and Arab world.
Washington has sent ships, extra troops and special forces to protect US interests and citizens in the Middle East, while a number of its embassies have evacuated staff and are on high alert for trouble.
The man, allegedly behind the private film, was questioned on Saturday by US authorities in California.
Separately, calls surfaced on Tuesday on social networks for Muslims in France to defy an official ban and hold fresh protests over an anti-Islam film that has sparked violent reactions across the world.
The messages on Twitter and other sites called for demonstrations to be held Saturday in Paris, Marseille and other major cities, a week after police in the capital arrested 150 people for taking part in a rowdy protest near the US embassy.
It was not clear who was behind the appeal that comes after France's interior minister said he would prevent any further such demonstrations taking place.
"These protests are forbidden. Any incitement to hatred must be fought with the greatest firmness," Manuel Valls said on Sunday.
He said that among the roughly 250 protesters on Saturday there were some groups that "advocate radical Islam", but they were not representative of the moderate Islam practised by most Muslims in France.
Meanwhile, hundreds of Palestinians protesting against the anti-Islam film clashed with Israeli border police in east Jerusalem on Tuesday, hurling stones and firebombs at a checkpoint, the military and reporters said. The protesters marched from the Shuafat camp toward a crossing that connects east and west Jerusalem where they confronted Israeli security forces, they said.
"About 200 youths threw stones and firebombs at the checkpoint, they were warded off by the forces at the site who used tear gas," police spokeswoman Luba Samri told AFP.
"It is currently quiet there, no police were injured and there have been no arrests so far," she added. An AFP correspondent said at least 20 demonstrators were wounded by tear gas and rubber bullets fired by border police.