Thirteen people died in riots across Pakistan when thousands of protesters used a national holiday to stage demonstrations against a film denigrating the Prophet Mohammed.
Nine people were killed in Karachi, including a police officer who was shot, as demonstrations provided cover for arsonists and looters who attacked shops and restaurants.
A protester and a driver with a TV news channel were killed by police gunfire in the north-western city of Peshawar, where four people died amid attacks on cinemas and government offices.
Pakistan said it summoned the most senior U.S. diplomat in Islamabad to protest against a YouTube trailer for an anti-Islam film made by a small group of extremists in the United States.
There were also peaceful protests in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Iraq.
The worst of the trouble came in Pakistan where the government declared Friday to be Love of the Prophet Mohammed Day and a national holiday as part of an attempt to release some of the anger building among the country’s hardline Islamic clerics.
YouTube has been blocked to prevent more people viewing trailers for “Innocence of Muslims,” an amateurish film that has provoked fury around the world.
Mobile phone networks were also shut down on Friday to prevent terrorists detonating bombs, and shipping containers were used to barricade roads leading to diplomatic missions as the country prepared for a day of protests.
Trouble flared in Peshawar, a terrorist hotspot close to the border with Afghanistan, even before the usual flashpoint of Friday prayers.
Witnesses said a rampaging crowd stormed the Shama cinema, notorious locally for showing films considered to be pornographic, smashing windows and setting it on fire.
In Islamabad, mosques gave over their weekly sermon to messages of peace, urging congregations to protest peacefully.
Bilal Saeed left the Red Mosque to join protests gathering close to the city’s red zone—an area given over to diplomatic missions and government ministries.
“It’s upsetting to us for someone to make fun of our holy Prophet, so every Muslim is angry,” he said. “This is like a slap in the face. We have every right to make our feelings known.”
Several thousand protesters clashed with lines of police, who used tear gas and rubber bullets to prevent them marching on the American embassy.
Earlier in the day Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, the Pakistani Prime Minister, called on the international community to pass laws to prevent people from insulting the Prophet Mohammed.
He said: “If denying the Holocaust is a crime, then is it not fair and legitimate for a Muslim to demand that denigrating and demeaning Islam’s holiest personality is no less than a crime?”
Pakistan, like many other Muslim countries, has struggled to understand why the West has allowed the makers of Innocence of Muslims to go unpunished.
On Friday, the US charge d’affaires, Richard Hoagland, was called in by the Foreign Ministry to hear Pakistani complaints about the film.
The U.S. has been trying to explain its position with television adverts broadcast at a cost of $70,000 in Pakistan. They feature Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton denouncing the video and explaining America’s history of religious tolerance.
In Iraq, about 3,000 protesters condemned the film and caricatures of the prophet published in a French satirical weekly. The protest in the southern city of Basra was organised by Iranian-backed Shiite groups. Some protesters raised Iraqi flags and posters of Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, while chanting: “Death to America.”
About 2,000 Muslims burned effigies of President Barack Obama and American flags in the Sri Lankan capital Colombo after Friday prayers, demanding that the United States ban the film.
In Bangladesh, more than 2,000 people marched through the streets of the capital, Dhaka, to protest the film. They burned a makeshift coffin draped in an American flag and an effigy of Obama.
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