Pakistan Calls National Holiday So Citizens Can Protest US Video; 2000 Try to Storm US Embassy

Photo credit: Omer Wazir

Some 2,000 protesters attempted to storm the US Embassy in the Pakistani capital on Thursday, even as US officials in the country tried to staunch lingering anti-US fervor by posting ads condemning the anti-Islam film that sparked worldwide attacks on US interests.

Riot police used tear gas and batons to keep the stone-throwing demonstrators away from the guarded enclave housing the embassy, and hundreds of shipping containers were lined up to cordon off the area. The government later called in army troops to protect the restricted areas when it appeared that police could not handle the situation.

“It is our responsibility to protect all our diplomats, all the foreigners,” said Pakistani Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira. He criticized protesters for resorting to violence and suggested that various religious and militant groups among the crowd were to blame.

Most of the protesters appeared to be students affiliated with the Islamist hardline Jamaat-e-Islami party. Flags from other Islamist groups, Jamaat-u-Dawa and the al-Qaeda linked militant group, Sipah-e-Sahaba, could be seen flying among the crowd. Demonstrators also rallied peacefully in the Pakistani cities of Lahore, Chaman, Karachi and Peshawar.

The demonstrations are expected to grow on Friday, the traditional Muslim day of prayer. The Pakistani government deemed Friday a national holiday so people can demonstrate peacefully against the film.

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