70,000 gather for violent Pakistan cartoons protest
By Times Online and agencies
Two people, including an eight-year-old boy, have died during a second day of violent protests across Pakistan over depictions of the Prophet Muhammad in European newspapers.
Dozens of demonstrators were injured in clashes with police in Peshawar, the restive capital of North West Frontier Province near the border with Afghanistan, when a crowd of 70,000 marauded through the streets, burning three cinemas, scores of cars and a KFC outlet.
Further protests also took place in Lahore, where 1,500 students staged an unannounced rally outside Punjab University.
Chaudhry Shafqat, a senior police official, told the Associated Press that the crowd attacked a police officer and stopped traffic. "It all happened suddenly, and we are trying to control the situation," he said.
In Tank, a town 230km (142 miles) from Peshawar on the fringes of of South Waziristan, the tribal region which borders Afghanistan and is thought to be a base for al-Qaeda and Taleban forces, protesters burnt down around 30 shops selling CDs and DVDs and opened fire on police.
Violence has swept across Pakistan this week after several peaceful demonstrations were held to protest the Muhammad cartoons in recent weeks.
Two protesters were killed in Lahore yesterday, where a mob burnt down a KFC, a McDonalds and a Pizza Hut, and a crowd of 1,000 students attacked the British, French and Indian embassies in Islamabad, throwing petrol bombs. Hundreds were arrested.
Pakistani officials have blamed the increasingly volatile nature of the protests on Islamist militants, who are determined to take advantage of the international controversy over the Muhammad images to destabilise the regime of President Pervez Musharraf.
Today's protest in Peshawar was the largest riot yet to take place in Pakistan over the cartoons. The eight-year-old boy died after being shot in the head by a stray bullet, which police said was fired by a protester. A 25-year-old man was killed by an electric cable that was snapped by gunfire, his cousin told AP.
The demonstration started this morning when a crowd of 6,000 gathered at a busy crossroads, police said.
Shouting "Death to Denmark" and "Hang those who drew the insulting cartoons", the crowd gathered numbers and moved through Peshawar, where many shops had closed in anticipation of the protest.
Offices belonging to Mobilink, Pakistan's main mobile phone operator, and Telenor, a Norwegian-owned phone company, were damaged.
The Muhammad cartoons, considered deeply blasphemous by many Muslims, were first published by a right-of-centre Danish newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, in September.
After being republished by a Norwegian Christian magazine and circulated across the Islamic world, they have provoked a global controversy, boycotts of Danish goods and riots that have killed nearly 20 people.
Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the Danish Prime Minister who has been burnt in effigy in dozens of cities across the world since the crisis began in late January, has called the furore Denmark's worst international relations incident since the Second World War.
Today, a group of 7,800 Indonesian importers began a formal boycott of Danish goods. "This boycott will end after the government of Denmark apologises to the Islamic community in Indonesia and the world," said Amirudin Saud, head of the Association of Indonesian National Importers. Denmark exports $73.8 million worth of goods, mainly food products, to Indonesia every year.