ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 142

search

Thousands attempt to breach US Embassy in Pakistan as anti-US furor smolders

Ads by embassy condemning anti-Islam video appear to have little effect; demonstrations expected to grow Friday

Pakistanis protesting the anti-Islam film in Islamabad on Thursday. (photo credit: AP/B.K. Bangash)
Pakistanis protesting the anti-Islam film in Islamabad on Thursday. (photo credit: AP/B.K. Bangash)

ISLAMABAD (AP) — 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.

That decision drew rare praise from the Pakistani Taliban, which is usually at war with the government. A spokesman for the militant group said it welcomed the decision but also thought the government should expel all American diplomats.

The US State Department on Thursday warned all U.S. citizens to defer non-essential travel to Pakistan until further notice. Their previous travel warning only reminded Americans of ongoing security concerns in the country. American consulates across the country have been closed to the public all week.

The riots came despite efforts by the embassy to head off protests by airing ads condemning the anti-Islam video “Innocence of Muslims” on Pakistani TV.

The ads reflected efforts by the US government to distance itself from the video, produced in the US, in a country where anti-American sentiment already runs high. Violence linked to the movie has left at least 30 people in seven countries dead, including the American ambassador to Libya. Two people have died in protests in Pakistan.

In recent days, the decision by a French satirical magazine to release cartoons crudely depicting the prophet has added to the tension, as may the upcoming issue of the German satirical magazine Titanic. The magazine’s co-editor Martin Sonneborn said it was up to readers to decide whether the cover of an Arab wielding a sword actually depicts the Prophet Muhammad.

Most outrage appears linked to the amateurish movie, which portrays the prophet as a fraud, womanizer and child molester.

The television ads in Pakistan feature clips of President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton during press appearances in Washington in which they condemned the video. Their words were subtitled in Urdu.

“We absolutely reject its content and message,” said Clinton in the advertisement.

The advertisements end with the seal of the American Embassy in Islamabad, the Pakistani capital.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the ad was produced by the embassy, which spent $70,000 to air the 30-second spot on seven Pakistani television stations. Pakistan is the only country where the ads are running. The embassy wanted to run the ads because it determined that the messages of Obama and Clinton were not reaching enough of the Pakistani public through regular news reporting, Nuland said.

“As you know, after the [anti-Islam] video came out, there was concern in lots of bodies politic, including Pakistan, as to whether this represented the views of the US government. So, in order to be sure that we reached the largest number of Pakistanis, some 90 million as I understand it in this case with these spots, it was the judgment that this was the best way to do it,” Nuland said.

In an email, the embassy in Islamabad sent out a link to video of ordinary Americans condemning the anti-Islam film, which appeared on YouTube. The State Department compiled the clips to give foreign audiences an idea of what regular Americans and their religious leaders thought of the video, Nuland said.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

read more:
Never miss breaking news on Israel
Get notifications to stay updated
You're subscribed
image
Register for free
and continue reading
Registering also lets you comment on articles and helps us improve your experience. It takes just a few seconds.
Already registered? Enter your email to sign in.
Please use the following structure: example@domain.com
Or Continue with
By registering you agree to the terms and conditions. Once registered, you’ll receive our Daily Edition email for free.
Register to continue
Or Continue with
Log in to continue
Sign in or Register
Or Continue with
check your email
Check your email
We sent an email to you at .
It has a link that will sign you in.