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Thousands rally in Pakistan against anti-Islam film

September 17, 2012


Pakistani police fire tear gas shells toward the Shia Muslim protesters during a rally against an anti-Islam movie in Karachi on September 16, 2012. — Photo by AFP

KARACHI: Thousands of people rallied across Pakistan on Sunday to denounce an anti-Islam film with protestors burning US flags and effigies of President Barack Obama, and calling to sever ties with Washington.

At least eight people were injured when protestors clashed with police outside the US consulate in Pakistan's port city of Karachi, officials said.

Police fired bullets in the air and used tear gas and water cannon to disperse some 1,000 people at the rally organised by a Shia religious organisation, according to an AFP photographer.

At one stage protestors broke through security cordons and got close to the heavily guarded US consulate, pelting the building with stones.

They chanted “Down with America”, “We will sacrifice our lives to safeguard the honour of the Prophet” and “Hang the film maker.” City police Chief Iqbal Mehmood told AFP at least 20 people were arrested.

Richard Silver, a spokesman for the US consulate, said there had been no damage or injury to any personnel at the mission.

Also in Karachi some 1,500 people joined a rally organised by the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI).

Elsewhere in Pakistan, more than 6,000 people gathered in the eastern city of Lahore to condemn the movie, according to local police estimates.

Organised by the banned charity Jamaat-ud-Dawa, which is seen as a front for the Lashkar-i-Taiba terror group blamed for the 2008 Mumbai attacks, the protest remained peaceful.

Addressing the rally, Jamaat-ud-Dawa leader Hafiz Saeed demanded US diplomats be expelled from Pakistan and accused the US of conspiring against Muslims.

He also announced plans to hold a long march towards Islamabad on the issue but did not give any date.

In the southwestern city of Quetta, the JUI and pro-government Balochistan Muttahida Mahaz (BMM) party held separate demonstrations, in total attended by over 1,000 people.

In the central city of Multan, more than 600 local traders held a rally and burnt effigies of the film-maker and controversial US pastor Terry Jones, who has promoted the film.

Some 500 protestors also rallied in Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan-administered Kashmir, where the local chief of Jamaat-ud-Dawa, Maulana Abdul Aziz Alvi, described the movie as “shameful”.

The low-budget movie, entitled “Innocence of Muslims”, has sparked fury across the Islamic world for mocking the Prophet Mohammed, and for portraying Muslims as immoral and gratuitously violent.

Police have beefed up security around US missions in Pakistan after violent attacks on American consulates and embassies in Egypt, Libya and Yemen.