By RIAZ KHAN, Associated Press
PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) — Protests over an anti-Muslim film turned violent Friday across Pakistan, with police firing tear gas and live ammunition at thousands of demonstrators who threw rocks and set fire to buildings. At least 15 people were killed and dozens were injured.
Muslims also marched in at least a half-dozen other countries, with some burning American flags and effigies of U.S. President Barack Obama.
Pakistan has experienced nearly a week of deadly protests over the film, "Innocence of Muslims," that has sparked anti-American violence around the Islamic world since it emerged on the Internet in the past 10 days. The deaths of at least 45 people, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya, have been linked to the violence over the film, which was made in California and denigrates the Prophet Muhammad.
The Pakistani government declared Friday to be a national holiday — "Love for the Prophet Day" — and encouraged peaceful protests.
The U.S. Embassy spent $70,000 for advertisements on Pakistani TV that featured Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton denouncing the video. Their comments, which are from previous public events in Washington, are in English but subtitled in Urdu, the main Pakistani language.
The deadliest violence occurred in the southern port city of Karachi, where 12 people were killed and 82 wounded, according to Seemi Jamali and Aftab Channar, officials at two hospitals.
Armed demonstrators among a crowd of 15,000 in that city fired on police, according to police officer Ahmad Hassan. The crowd also burned two cinemas and a bank, he said.
Three people were killed and 61 wounded in the northwestern city of Peshawar, said police official Bashir Khan. Police fired on rioters who set fire to two movie theaters and the city's chamber of commerce, and damaged shops and vehicles.
One of the dead was identified as Mohammad Amir, a driver for a Pakistani TV station who was killed when police bullets hit his vehicle, which was parked near the cinema, said Kashif Mahmood, a reporter for ARY TV who also was in the car. The TV channel showed doctors at a hospital trying unsuccessfully to save Amir's life.
Police beat demonstrators with batons. Later in the day, tens of thousands of protesters converged in a neighborhood and called for the maker of the film, an American citizen originally from Egypt, to be executed.
Police and stone-throwers also clashed in Lahore and Islamabad, the capital. Police fired tear gas and warning shots to try to keep them from advancing toward U.S. missions in the cities.
Hospital official Tanveer Malik says 25 people were wounded in Islamabad.
Police clashed with over 10,000 demonstrators in several neighborhoods, including in front of a five-star hotel near the diplomatic enclave where the U.S. Embassy and other foreign missions are located. A military helicopter buzzed overhead as the sound of tear gas being fired echoed across the city.
The government temporarily blocked cellphone service in 15 major cities to prevent militants from using phones to detonate bombs during the protests, said an Interior Ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media. Blocking cellphones could make it harder for people to organize protests as well.
Pakistan's Foreign Ministry on Friday summoned the U.S. charge d'affaires in Islamabad, Richard Hoagland, over the film. Pakistan has banned access to YouTube because the website refused to remove the video.
Pakistani Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf had urged the international community to pass laws to prevent people from insulting the prophet.
"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?" Ashraf said in a speech to religious scholars and international diplomats in Islamabad.