As many as 19 people have been killed in Pakistan amid violent protests over anti-Muslim film “Innocence of Muslims,” and the death toll is rising, according to several reports.
As demonstrations in the Middle East continue over the American-made video as well as a French-made cartoon -- both of which mocked the Islamic Prophet Mohammed -- violent protesters in the northwestern city of Peshawar smashed windows and set two movie theaters ablaze. One of the dead was the driver of a TV reporter, who was killed as police fired shots to disperse the crowd.
“He was shot in the chest. He was put on a ventilator after surgery but could not survive,” Mukhtar Khan, head of Peshawar’s Lady Reading Hospital, told Sky News.
Hospital officials told Sky News that 60 people have been wounded so far in Peshawar. Meanwhile, thousands of demonstrators continued to flood the streets elsewhere throughout the country, as protests over the film turned increasingly bloody. Twelve of the dead were reportedly killed in protests in Karachi, the country’s largest city and financial center. More than 100 people have been reported wounded in that city.
Pakistani officials reported unrest in Lahore and Islamabad as well. As demonstrators there advanced toward the U.S. missions, police fired tear gas and warning shots to try to keep protesters at bay. The BBC reported Friday morning that demonstrators have breached the diplomatic enclave near the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, the country’s capital.
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Several news outlets over the last week have posted pictures of Pakistani protesters burning American flags and other U.S. symbols, including an effigy of President Obama. U.S. targets continue to suffer the brunt of the protests in Pakistan. However, following the publication of caricatures of Mohammed published in the French magazine Charlie Hebdo this week, anger has been directed at that country as well. France has shut down its embassies and other missions in about 20 Muslim countries, and French officials confirmed on Friday that street protests against the cartoon would not be allowed.
“There will be strictly no exceptions. Demonstrations will be banned and broken up,”Manuel Valls, France’s interior minister, told Reuters.
Anti-American demonstrations over “Innocence of Muslims” have continued since Sept. 11, when news outlets in Cairo showed a clip of the video translated in Arabic. The video had been on YouTube since at least July 2. Google Inc. (Nasdaq: GOOG), which owns YouTube, has blocked access to the video in some countries with large Muslim populations, including India, Libya and Egypt. But even at the request of the White House, the company has refused to take the video down, citing First Amendment issues.
This week, an actress who appeared in the video requested a temporary restraining order that would bock distribution of the video, but a Los Angeles judge on Thursday denied that request.
The actress, Cindy Lee Garcia, has said that she and the entire cast were unaware of the movie’s anti-Muslim sentiment and that the anti-Muslim aspects were edited in during post-production. She said in a press conference Thursday that she has received death threats over the video.
YouTube has been entirely blocked in Pakistan since Monday.