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3 killed in prophet protests in Pakistan

By Riaz Khan

Associated Press

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

Pakistan has experienced nearly a week of violent rallies against the film in which five people have died. The government declared Friday to be a national holiday — "Love for the Prophet Day" — and encouraged peaceful protests.

In Peshawar, several hundred protesters set ablaze two cinemas and the city's chamber of commerce, and damaged shops and vehicles. Police beat demonstrators with batons. Later in the day, tens of thousands of protesters converged in one of the city's neighborhoods and called for the maker of the film, an American citizen originally from Egypt, to be executed.

Police clashed with over 10,000 demonstrators in several areas of Islamabad, including in front of a five-star hotel near the diplomatic enclave where the U.S. Embassy and other foreign missions are located. A military helicopter buzzed overhead as the sound of tear gas being fired echoed across the city.

The government temporarily blocked cell phone service in 15 major cities to prevent militants from using phones to detonate bombs during the protests, said an Interior Ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media. Blocking cell phones could make it harder for people to organize protests as well.

U.S. officials have struggled to explain to the Muslim world how they strongly disagree with the anti-Islam film but have no ability to block it because of the freedom of speech in the country.

The U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, in a bid to tamp down public rage over the film, is spending $70,000 to air an ad on Pakistani television that features President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton denouncing the video. Their comments, which are from previous public events in Washington, are in English but subtitled in Urdu, the main Pakistani language.

Pakistani Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf called on the international community Friday to pass laws to prevent people from insulting the Prophet Muhammad.

"If denying the Holocaust is a crime, then is it not fair and legitimate for a Muslim to demand that denigrating and demeaning Islam's holiest personality is no less than a crime?" Ashraf said during a speech to religious scholars and international diplomats in Islamabad.

Denying the Holocaust is a crime in Germany, but not in the U.S.

The Pakistani Foreign Ministry on Friday summoned the U.S. charge d'affaires in Islamabad, Richard Hoagland, to protest the film. Pakistan has banned access to YouTube because the website refused to remove the video.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also lashed out at the West over the film and the caricatures in the French weekly, Charlie Hebdo.

"In return for (allowing) the ugliest insults to the divine messenger, they — the West — raise the slogan of respect for freedom of speech," said Ahmadinejad during a speech in the capital, Tehran.

He said this explanation was "clearly a deception."

In Germany, the Interior Ministry said it was postponing a poster campaign aimed at countering radical Islam among young people due to tensions caused by the online video insulting Islam. It said posters for the campaign — in German, Turkish and Arabic — were meant to go on display in German cities with large immigrant populations on Friday but are being withheld because of the changed security situation. Germany is home to an estimated 4 million Muslims.

Associated Press writers Munir Ahmed, Zarar Khan and Sebastian Abbot in Islamabad; Nasser Karimi in Tehran, Iran; and Aijaz Hussain in Srinagar, India, contributed to this report.

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