Fresh anti-Islam film protests in Muslim countries

BBC's Aleem Maqbool: "There have been big protests in Peshawar, Lahore and indeed in Karachi"

Fresh protests are under way in Muslim countries against an anti-Islam film made in the US.

At least three people died in Pakistan as a government-declared "special day of love" for the Prophet Muhammad turned to violence in several cities.

In the capital, Islamabad, many people were hurt as protesters tried to storm the city's diplomatic enclave to reach the US embassy.

There has been widespread unrest over the amateur film, Innocence of Muslims.

The protests have already claimed several lives around the world.

Start Quote

Seen more injured in last hour than all of yesterday. Once again people saying they want to burn the US embassy”

End Quote Aleem Maqbool BBC News, Islamabad

Although the US has borne the brunt of protests, anti-Western sentiment has been stoked further by caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad published in a satirical French magazine.

The US has paid for adverts on Pakistani TV that show President Barack Obama condemning the film.

Analysis

Protesters in north-west Pakistan are continuing to show their violent side - setting everything that appears inflammable on fire.

There is considerable pent-up anger among Pakistanis over failing civic services and a poor economy. Blasphemy and anti-American feelings provide an added trigger.

There is also the question of who is organising these protests. Mainstream religious groups with electoral interests seek to hold peaceful rallies because their main aim is to galvanise voter support in coming elections.

But there are other groups who have no electoral prospects but have considerable street power and they have been using this to expand their influence. They have an interest in destabilising the government or outshining rival groups.

In the northern Pakistani city of Peshawar, protesters attacked and ransacked two cinema buildings. A driver for Pakistan's ARY TV, named by the channel as Mohammed Amir, was killed when police opened fire to disperse protesters, many of whom were reported wounded.

A protester, shot during the disturbances, also died of his injuries, police said.

In Islamabad, which saw its first clashes between protesters and security forces on Thursday, a police checkpost was burned as demonstrators breached the "red zone" where the main embassies and government offices are based.

Police used live rounds and tear gas as the crowd swelled to thousands of people.

The BBC's Aleem Maqbool in Islamabad said the focal point of people's anger was the US embassy and he had seen more people injured in one hour than all of Thursday.

One policeman was reported killed and two officers were hurt in the port city of Karachi where demonstrators tried to reach the US consulate. BBC reporters said police had fired live bullets in the air to disperse the crowds and police told local media that gunfire had come from an unknown direction.

Protesters also managed to approach the US consulate in Lahore, a BBC reporter said, and police responded with tear gas and baton charges.

Dozens of protests against the film had already been held across Pakistan over the past week - killing at least two people.

All major political parties and religious organisations have announced protests for Friday, along with trade and transport groups.

The Pakistani authorities have urged people to demonstrate peacefully, with mobile phone services cut across the country to reduce security risks.

Meanwhile, the US charge d'affaires Richard Hoagland was summoned to the Pakistani Foreign Office and an official protest was lodged with him. He is reported to have responded that the US government had nothing to do with the film.

The US state department has issued a warning against any non-essential travel to Pakistan.

Embassies closed

France has closed its embassies and other official offices in about 20 countries across the Muslim world on Friday after French magazine Charlie Hebdo published cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, including two drawings showing him naked.

French Muslim leaders condemned the magazine and said an appeal for calm would be read in mosques across the country on Friday.

Charlie Hebdo sold out on Wednesday but is publishing another 70,000 copies, to coincide with Friday prayers.

Video courtesy of the US embassy in Pakistan

In Tunisia - where France is the former colonial power - the government has banned Friday protests.

Calls to protest against the caricatures have turned up in Tunisian social media. Interior Minister Ali Larayedh said it was believed that some groups were planning violent protests after Friday prayers.

There are also fears of violence in the Libyan city of Benghazi after rival groups said they would take to the streets.

One group intends to denounce extremism and urge militias to disband, following an attack on the US consulate in the city on 11 September that killed the US ambassador and three other American officials.

Throughout the week, Benghazi residents have left wreaths and placards condemning the attack outside the US mission.

Meanwhile, Ansar al-Sharia, the jihadist militia blamed by some local people for the attack, called for protests "in defence of the Prophet Muhammad". Both protests are scheduled for the same time.

In the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur, more than 2,000 people protested peacefully in front of the US embassy.

Some protesters were holding signs insisting that insulting religion was not freedom of speech.

In Cairo, where the protests against the film began, Egyptian security forces are patrolling the streets around the US embassy.

Radical Islamists have clashed with security forces there in recent days, although President Mohammed Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood has stayed away from the unrest, only condemning the film and calling for peaceful demonstrations.

The low-budget film that sparked the controversy was made in the US and is said to insult the Prophet Muhammad.

Its exact origins are unclear and the alleged producer for the trailer of the film, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, is in hiding.

Anti-US sentiment grew after a trailer for the film dubbed into Arabic was released on YouTube earlier this month.

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