KARACHI: At least 15 people were killed and more than 200 wounded in Pakistan during violent protests Friday condemning a US-made film insulting Islam, defying a government call for only peaceful demonstrations, officials said.
Nine people were killed in Karachi, the country's largest city, and four in the northwestern city of Peshawar, hospital officials said.
The combined total of wounded in Karachi, Peshawar and in the capital Islamabad was 229.
Doctor Mohammad Shafqat of Karachi's Jinnah hospital told AFP that it had received five dead bodies and 65 people with injuries, with more wounded arriving.
Doctor Mohammad Ayub at the Civil Hospital, said his medics had received five dead bodies, including that of a police officer, and at least 40 injured.
The policeman was killed in an exchange of fire with protesters in Karachi, police official Mohammad Shakeel said.
Thousands took to the streets in a series of different demonstrations across Karachi, home to an estimated 18 million, to condemn the film, “Innocence of Muslims”.
Scuffles broke out when protesters tried to march towards the US consulate, throwing stones at police and trying to remove shipping containers that blocked the road, police said.
Officers fired off tear gas shells and fired into the air to disperse the crowd, but three policemen were wounded by gunfire from an unknown direction, Shakeel said.
In Islamabad, a doctor at the Services Hospital said 35 people were brought in with injuries, including eight policemen and four civilians with gunshot wounds.
In the northwestern city of Peshawar, the Lady Reading Hospital said it had three dead, including a TV station employee who was shot when protesters set alight and ransacked a cinema.
Doctor Farman at Khyber Teaching Hospital, who used only one name, confirmed that another body had been brought in after the demonstrations.
Hospital doctors in Peshawar gave a combined total of 60 people wounded.
Angry demonstrators armed with clubs and sticks set fire to and ransacked three cinemas in Peshawar.
Three cinemas were also set alight in Karachi — two on Karachi's Muhammad Ali Jinnah road and one in the city's Quaidabad area. Moreover, three private banks were also set on fire near Karachi's PIDC.
Earlier today, police had told AFP they were on maximum alert and that bomb disposal squads were sweeping planned locations of rallies to ensure that extremists could not exploit protests to cause carnage.
“All the entry and exit points of the city are heavily guarded. Helicopters are on stand-by for aerial surveillance,” provincial police chief Fayyaz Laghari had told AFP.
“We have deployed our maximum police force to the sensitive parts of the city to ensure security during protest rallies today.”
In Rawalpindi, clashes broke out when scores of demonstrators pelted cars and police with stones, and burnt down a booth at a toll plaza, police official Mohammad Munir said.
In Mardan a mob set fire to a church, DawnNews reported.