Pakistan erupts in a day of violence as 15 killed during anti-US protests

 

Islamabad

Violence and mayhem erupted across Pakistan yesterday as protesters took to the streets over a film made in the United States that they see as insulting the Prophet Mohamed, leaving at least 15 dead.

Leaderless mobs fought police all day in cities across the country, with the worst violence in Peshawar in the north west and in the southern port of Karachi. Protesters burned buildings and trashed shops and vehicles.

The government's gamble of declaring yesterday a national holiday, in an apparent attempt to provide a means for people to vent their anger, seemed to backfire. It only swelled the crowds and their determination, with tens of thousands joining the chaos after Friday prayers.

In the capital, Islamabad, the US embassy was the target for the protesters. In the provincial capitals of Lahore, Karachi and Peshawar, the US consulates were the focus where the police just about managed to keep the crowds at bay. Paramilitary forces were also deployed, while in Islamabad, the army was on standby.

Some reports put the death toll at 20, with 12 killed in Karachi alone, including three police officers, and more than 100 injured. Police used live rounds and rubber bullets in and elsewhere. Areas of the cities turned into war zones, suffocating under a blanket of tear gas. Dozens of police officers were among the wounded as the enraged crowds hit back.

Banned extremist groups, carrying their organisations' flags, joined the demonstrations in many of the cities, including Sipah-e-Sahaba. In Lahore, one rally was addressed by Hafiz Saeed, the leader of internationally proscribed Jamaat-ud-Dawa, who carries a US bounty of $10m (£6m) on his head. Effigies of US president Barack Obama were widely burnt.

Pakistan saw the most violence, but there were protests across the Muslim world. In Iraq, where about 3,000 people, mostly followers of Iranian-backed Shiaa Muslim groups, protested against the film in the southern city of Basra. In Bangladesh, about 10,000 people marched through the streets of the capital, Dhaka. They burned a makeshift coffin draped in an American flag, and an effigy of Obama. In Lebanon, thousands gathered in the Bekaa valley for the latest in a series of protest rallies organised by Hezbollah.

In Islamabad, there was a running war between police and the crowd for seven hours in front of the entrance to the city's heavily fortified diplomatic area, which houses the American embassy. "We want America to know that we are ready to die for Islam," said one marcher, 24-year-old clerk Muhammad Adil, recovering from tear gas. "Our religion is not the sort that you can make fun of. We will not tolerate it."

The crowd seemed sure that the US government was behind the amateurish internet film, The Innocence of Muslims, or they believed that Washington could stop it anyway. "We just want the guilty person tried and hanged," said Omar Hyat, a 38-year-old businessman. "All this is happening by design. It is a conspiracy. They are testing how far they can push Muslims."

In Peshawar, a TV news worker was shot dead, seemingly by police. The city's Firdous cinema was set ablaze as protesters rampaged towards the US consulate. In Karachi, four cinemas were burnt as well as banks, restaurants and shops. Often the buildings were looted before being set on fire.

Pakistan's information minister, Qamar Zaman Kaira, said: "Our enemies must be very happy. We are only hurting ourselves. Only damaging our own country. What did those killed today die for?"

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before