Pakistan: Military Called In After Thousands Of Protesters ‘Ready To Die’ Riot In Islamabad Against Anti-Mohammed Film
By Khurram Shahzad – “ISLAMABAD — Thousands of protesters angry at a US-made anti-Islam film clashed with police close to Islamabad’s diplomatic enclave on Thursday in chaotic scenes that left at least 50 people injured.
Officers fired tear gas and live rounds as the demonstrators, many armed with wooden clubs, tried to reach the heavily-guarded enclave, home to most Western embassies, including the US, British and French missions.
The government called in the army to protect the area after protesters broke through a barrier of shipping containers set up by police to block a road leading to the enclave.
The crudely made ‘Innocence of Muslims’, produced by US-based extremist Christians, has triggered protests in at least 20 countries since excerpts were posted online, and more than 30 people have been killed in violence linked to the film.
The US State Department on Thursday warned its citizens to avoid travel to Pakistan and Washington has moved to boost security at its diplomatic missions worldwide.
There have been dozens of demonstrations around Pakistan over the past week and at least two people have been killed, but Thursday was the first time protests in the capital had turned violent.
An initial demonstration of around 1,000 swelled to around 5,000 with the arrival of protesters carrying the flags of hardline Islamist groups Jamaat-ud-Dawa, Jamaat-e-Islami and Sipah-e-Sahaba — which is banned by the Pakistan government.
Police fired tear gas and live rounds as the protesters, chanting ‘we are ready to die to safeguard the Prophet’s honour’ and demanding punishment for those who insult Islam, stormed the container barrier.
The firing scattered the crowd, but they returned to pelt officers with stones and breach the cordon, before torching a police post next to the nearby five-star Serena hotel and fighting officers in chaotic scenes.
The luxury hotel, much used by visiting Westerners, came under attack as a few demonstrators managed to enter the car park and damage vehicles, while others picked up tear gas shells fired by police and threw them into the Serena compound.
Doctor Razia Sultana of the Federal Government Services Hospital said at least 44 police and six civilians were hurt in the clashes, with the majority of injuries caused by stones and tear gas shells.
The Islamabad demonstration dispersed in the early evening, around five hours after it started, as government paramilitary helicopters hovered overhead.
Protester Rehan Ahmad explained the crowd’s fury.
‘Islam is often ridiculed by America and the West and blasphemy is committed against our prophet in the name of freedom of expression,’ he told AFP.” Read more.