Pakistan's 'Day of Love' turns deadly as 15 die in protests against film
At least 15 people died in riots across Pakistan yesterday when thousands of protesters used a national holiday to stage demonstrations against a film denigrating the Prophet Mohammed.
Ten people were killed in Karachi, as police fired on demonstrators who set fire to shops. Five people died in the north-western city of Peshawar, including a driver with a television news channel.
There were also peaceful protests in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Iraq.
In Pakistan, the government declared yesterday to be Love of the Prophet Mohammed Day and a national holiday, to release anger building among Islamic clerics.
YouTube was blocked to prevent more people viewing trailers for 'Innocence of Muslims', an amateurish film that has provoked fury around the world.
Mobile-phone networks were shut down to prevent terrorists detonating bombs, while shipping containers barricaded roads leading to diplomatic missions.
Trouble flared in Peshawar even before Friday prayers. Witnesses said a crowd set fire to a cinema showing films believed to be pornographic.
In Islamabad, mosques gave over their sermons to urge congregations to protest peacefully. One demonstrator, Bilal Saeed, left the Red Mosque to join protests close to the area given over to diplomatic missions.
"It's upsetting to us for someone to make fun of our holy Prophet, so every Muslim is angry," he said.
"This is like a slap in the face. We have every right to make our feelings known," he added.
Several thousand protesters clashed with police, who used rubber bullets to prevent them marching on the American embassy.
Earlier in the day, Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, the Pakistani prime minister, called on the international community to pass laws against insulting the Prophet, while the US charge d'affaires, Richard Hoagland, was called in by the foreign ministry to hear complaints about the film.
US television adverts, broadcast in Pakistan at a cost of $70,000 (€54,000), featured Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton denouncing the video and explaining America's history of religious tolerance.
Meanwhile, France banned protests against cartoons published by a satirical weekly denigrating Prophet Mohammad as part of a security clampdown while prayers took place across the Muslim world.
The country's Muslim population shrugged off the controversy as imams in mosques denounced the pictures but urged their followers to remain calm.
The drawings have stoked the furore over the anti-Islam film that has provoked sometimes violent protests in several Muslim countries, including attacks on the US and other Western embassies, the killing of the US envoy to Libya and a suicide bombing in Afghanistan.
Interior Minister Manuel Valls said prefects had orders to prohibit any protest and to crack down if the ban was challenged.
"There will be strictly no exceptions. Demonstrations will be banned and broken up," he said.
The main body representing Muslims in France appealed for calm as the weekly 'Charlie Hebdo' put a new print run of the cartoons featuring a naked Prophet Mohammad on the news stands.
Mohammed Moussaoui, head of the French Muslim Council, described both the film and the cartoons as "acts of aggression" but urged French Muslims not to protest in the streets. (© Daily Telegraph, London)