3 killed in prophet protests in Pakistan

By Riaz Khan

Associated Press

Published: Friday, Sept. 21 2012 6:46 a.m. MDT

Pakistani protesters shout anti-U.S. slogans at a rally in Rawalpindi, Pakistan on Friday, Sept. 21, 2012. Pakistan has blocked cell phone service in major cities to prevent militants from using phones to detonate bombs during a national day of protest against an anti-Islam film produced in the United States.

B.K. Bangash, Associated Press

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — Protests by tens of thousands of Pakistanis infuriated by an anti-Islam film descended into deadly violence on Friday, with police firing tear gas and live ammunition in an attempt to subdue rioters who hurled rocks and set fire to buildings in some cities. Three people were killed and dozens injured on a holiday declared by Pakistan's government so people could rally against the video.

Thousands of Muslims protested in at least half a dozen other countries, some burning American flags and effigies of President Barack Obama.

In the Pakistani city of Peshawar, police fired on rioters who were torching a cinema. Mohammad Amir, a driver for a Pakistani television station, was killed when police bullets hit his vehicle at the scene, said Kashif Mahmood, a reporter for ARY TV who was also sitting in the car at the time. The TV channel showed footage of Amir at the hospital as doctors tried to save him.

A protester who was shot during a demonstration in the city also died, said police officer Rohhullah Khan.

In Karachi, armed protesters among a group of 15,000 fired on police, killing one and wounding another, said police officer Ahmad Hassan. The crowd also burned two cinemas and a bank, he said.

Clashes between police and stone-throwing protesters also occurred in Lahore and Islamabad, the Pakistani capital. Police fired tear gas as well as warning shots in an attempt to keep them from advancing toward U.S. missions in the cities. At least 55 people, including nine police, were injured in the nationwide unrest, according to police and hospital officials.

The film denigrating the Prophet Muhammad — "Innocence of Muslims" — has sparked unrest in many parts of the Muslim world over the past 10 days, and the deaths of at least 33 people, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya, have been linked to the violence. Much of the anger has been directed at the U.S. government even though the film was privately produced in the U.S. and American officials have criticized it for insulting Muslims.

In Iraq, about 3,000 protesters condemned the film and caricatures of the prophet in a French satirical weekly. The protest in the southern city of Basra was organized by Iranian-backed Shiite groups. Some protesters raised Iraqi flags and posters of Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, while chanting: "Death to America."

Protesters burned Israeli and American flags and raised a banner that read: "We condemn the offences made against the prophet."

In the Sri Lanka capital of Colombo, about 2,000 Muslims burned effigies of President Barack Obama and American flags at a protest after Friday prayers, demanding that the United States ban the film. In Bangladesh, over 2,000 people marched through the streets of the capital, Dhaka, to protest the film. They burned a makeshift coffin draped in an American flag and an effigy of Obama.

They also burned a French flag to protest the publication of the caricatures of the prophet. Small and mostly orderly protests were also held in Malaysia and Indonesia.

Thousands gathered in Lebanon's Bekaa valley for the latest in a series of protest rallies organized by the Shiite militant group Hezbollah. Protesters carried the yellow Hezbollah flag.

Hezbollah appears to be trying to ensure the gatherings don't become violent, planning them only in areas where Hezbollah has control. None of the rallies targets the heavily fortified U.S. Embassy in the hills outside Beirut.

Police clamped a daylong curfew in parts of Indian-controlled Kashmir's main city, Srinagar, and chased away protesters opposing the anti-Islam film. Authorities in the region also temporarily blocked cell phone and Internet services to prevent viewing the film clips.

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