Pakistan protests against anti-Islam film leave 19 dead
Canadian embassy closed as dozens wounded in clashes with police
Pakistani officials say at least 19 people have been killed and more than 200 wounded in clashes between police and people protesting a film that denigrates Islam's Prophet Muhammad.
Protests turned to violence in several cities on a holiday declared by Pakistan's government so people could rally against the video.
Thousands of Muslims protested in several other countries, including Iraq, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan, with some burning American flags and effigies of President Barack Obama.
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 47 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. Caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad in a French satirical magazine this week also sparked protests.
Thousands of demonstrators
The deadliest violence occurred in the southern port city of Karachi, where 14 people were killed and 82 wounded, according to Seemi Jamali and Aftab Channar, officials at two hospitals.
In Karachi, armed protesters among a group of 15,000 fired on police, killing at least one and wounding another, said police officer Ahmad Hassan. The crowd also burned two cinemas and a bank, he said.
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Police official Bashir Khan says five others were killed and 60 wounded in the northwest city of Peshawar, where police fired on rioters who were torching a cinema.
There, 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 neighbourhoods and called for the maker of the film, an American citizen originally from Egypt, to be executed.
Mohammad Amir, a driver for a Pakistani television station, was killed when police bullets hit his vehicle at the scene in Peshawar, 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.
Clashes between police and stone-throwing protesters also occurred in Lahore and Islamabad, the Pakistani capital.
Hospital official Mohammad Naeem says 45 people were wounded in Islamabad, including 28 protesters and 17 police.
Canadian embassy closed in Islamabad
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.
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.
The Canadian embassy in Islamabad closed on Friday due to demonstrations, it said in a statement on its website.
The government temporarily blocked cellphone 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 cellphones 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 PM calls for international laws against insulting Prophet
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.
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.