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Fresh anti-US protests erupt in Pakistan
One death reported in demonstrations against anti-Islam video even as US runs ads on Pakistani TV to assuage feelings.
Last Modified: 21 Sep 2012 09:41

At least one person has died as demonstrations against an anti-Islam video erupt across Pakistan, a day after protesters tried to storm the US embassy in the capital, Islamabad.

Friday was designated an impromptu holiday as a "day of love for the prophet", as the government called for peaceful protests against the Innocence of Muslims video produced in the US, which has led to demonstrations in several Muslim-majority nations.

All the major political parties and religious groups announced protests, as did many trade and transport organisations, and large crowds were expected to turn out after Friday prayers.


Shops, markets and petrol stations were closed and transport was likely to come to a standstill.

The authorities are under pressure to ensure there is no repeat of the violence seen on the streets of Islamabad on Thursday, when the US embassy became the latest target of protesters angry at the video mocking Islam and Prophet Muhammad.

The total number of protesters reached about 5,000 with the arrival of protesters carrying the flags of hardline Islamist groups.

At least 50 people were injured as police fired tear gas and live rounds towards the crowds.

Police clashes

Hundreds of students from various colleges and educational institutions in Islamabad had begun clashing with police as security forces tried to block them from reaching the embassy compound, which also includes the British and French diplomatic missions.

The students responded by pelting the police with stones, and the police retaliated by firing tear gas shells.

 

Al Jazeera's Kamal Hyder, reporting from Islamabad, said the situation was eventually brought under "control" by police and the military.

"Police tried to control the crowd by firing in the air and using tear gas. But because of the size of the crowd, the police were forced to ask for help from the military," he said.

Several thousands were trying to march but were prevented by the security forces, he said, adding that military helicopters were hovering over the area where the protests were taking place.

Several students were injured when policemen hurled the stones back at the crowd.

According to local television channels, several policemen were also injured.

US television ads

Amid the growing protests, the US has bought time on Pakistani television stations to run a series of ads in a bid to stem Muslim protests.

The US hopes the ad would show that it had no involvement with the controversial internet video.

The US embassy in Islamabad spent about $70,000 to run the announcement, which features clips of Barack Obama, the US president, and Hillary Clinton, secretary of state, underscoring US respect for religion and declaring the US government had nothing to do with the video.

Obama is shown saying: "Since our founding, the United States has been a nation that respects all faiths. We reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others."

Clinton then says: "Let me state very clearly, the United States has absolutely nothing to do with this video. We absolutely reject its contents. America's commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation."

"In order to ensure we reached the largest number of Pakistanis, some 90 million as I understand it in this case with
these spots, it was the judgment that this was the best way to do it," Victoria Nuland, state department spokeswoman, said.

The aim was "to make sure that the Pakistani people hear the president's messages and the secretary's messages", Nuland said of the ad.

The announcement aired as the US warned its citizens to avoid non-essential travel to Pakistan, one of the mostly Muslim countries hit by a wave of anti-American demonstrations.

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Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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