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Pakistan protesters march on US Consulate, 1 dead

Sunday, September 16, 2012 | 4:05 PM    

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KARACHI, Pakistan (AP) — Hundreds of Pakistanis protesting an anti-Islam video broke through a barricade near the US Consulate in the southern city of Karachi today, sparking clashes with police in which one demonstrator was killed and more than a dozen injured.

The film, which denigrates Islam's Prophet Muhammad, has sparked violent protests throughout the Muslim world in recent days, including one in Libya in which the US ambassador to the country was killed.

Police fired tear gas and water cannons at the protesters in Karachi after they broke through the barricade and reached the outer wall of the US Consulate, police officer Mohammad Ranjha said. Police and private security guards outside the consulate also fired shots in the air to disperse the crowd.

Ali Ahmar, a spokesman for the Shiite Muslim group that organized the rally, said one protester was killed during the clash.

An official with the main ambulance service in the city, Khurram Ahmad, confirmed they carried away one dead protester and 18 others who were injured.

All Americans who work at the consulate, which is located in the heart of Karachi, were safe, Rian Harris, a spokeswoman for the US Embassy in Islamabad, said.

At least 8,000 people also attended a rally against the film in the eastern city of Lahore, which was organized by Jamaat-ud-Dawa, believed to be a front organization for a powerful militant group. The protesters shouted anti-US slogans and burned an American flag.

"Our war will continue until America is destroyed!" shouted some of the protesters. "Dog, dog, America is a dog!" chanted others.

The head of Jamaat-ud-Dawa, Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, who has a $10 million US bounty on his head, addressed the crowd and demanded the Pakistani government shut down the US Embassy and all consulates in the country until the film makers are punished.

Around 4,000 people attended a demonstration near the northwest city of Dera Ismail Khan organized by the hard-line party Jamiat-Ulema-Islam.

"This film shows how much these Americans and these Westerners are extremists," the head of the party, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, told the protesters.

Smaller protests were held in other parts of Pakistan, including the northwest city of Peshawar.

The protests were set off by a low-budget, crudely produced film called "Innocence of Muslims," which portrays Muhammad as a fraud, a womanizer and a child molester. A 14-minute excerpt of the film, which is both in English and dubbed into Arabic, has been available on YouTube, although some countries have cut access to the site.

The violence began Tuesday when mainly Islamist protesters climbed the U.S. Embassy walls in the Egyptian capital of Egypt and tore down the American flag from a pole in the courtyard.

Chris Stevens, the US ambassador to Libya, was killed Tuesday along with three other Americans, as violent protesters stormed the consulate in Benghazi. President Barack Obama has vowed that the attackers would be brought to justice, but also stressed that the U.S. respects religious freedom.

Protesters this week also have stormed Western embassies in Sudan and Tunisia, and an American fast food restaurant was burned in Lebanon.

The intensity of the anti-American fervor initially caught US leaders by surprise, but in the last several days the Obama administration has deployed military units to shore up security in hotspots, and used diplomacy to call for calm and urge foreign governments to protect American interests in their countries.

It also has been unclear how much of the violence was spontaneously triggered by the film and how much of it was spurred on by anti-American militants using it as a tool to grow and enrage the crowds.

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