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19 die in Pakistan protests over video

Muslims in Lahore, Pakistan, toppled a freight container during a demonstration Friday.Arif Alia/AFP/Getty Images

ISLAMABAD — Violent crowds furious over an anti-Islamic video made in the United States convulsed Pakistan’s largest cities on Friday, leaving up to 19 people dead and more than 160 hurt in a day of government-sanctioned protests.

It was the worst single day of deadly violence in a Muslim country over the video, ‘‘Innocence of Muslims,’’ since the protests began nearly two weeks ago in Egypt and later spread to two dozen countries. Protesters have ignored the US government’s denunciation of the video.

Friday’s violence in Pakistan began with a television station employee dying from gunshot wounds during a protest in the northwestern city of Peshawar, then was amplified through armed protests in the southern port city of Karachi that left between 12 and 14 people dead, Pakistani news media reported.


By nightfall, Geo, the leading television station, was reporting 19 deaths around the country.Less-violent protests occurred in other Muslim countries but were exacerbated by the publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed in a French satirical weekly.

In Bangladesh, several thousand Islamist activists took to the streets of the capital, Dhaka, waving banners and burning a symbolic coffin for President Obama that was draped with the US flag. ‘‘Death to the United States and death to French,’’ they chanted.

Local television networks reported that a mobs ransacked and burned an Anglican church in Mardan in northwestern Pakistan. A statement by the bishop of Peshawar, the Rev. Humphrey Peters, said that newly installed computers were stolen before the church was set on fire. There were no reports of killings or injuries to the Christians.

In Tunisia, the government invoked emergency powers to outlaw all demonstrations; US diplomatic posts in India, Indonesia, and elsewhere closed for the day.

France closed embassies and other institutions in 20 countries while, in Paris, some Muslim leaders urged their followers to heed a government ban on weekend demonstrations.


“There will be strictly no exceptions. Demonstrations will be banned and broken up,’’ said Manuel Valls, the French interior minister.

In Pakistan, the streets erupted beginning in early morning in Peshawar, where protesters burned two movie theaters. Two people, including the television employee, Muhammad Amir, were killed.

Amir’s employer broadcast graphic images of hospital staff giving him emergency treatment shortly before he died, which other Pakistani journalists condemned as insensitive and irresponsible.

Some protesters tried to reach the city’s heavily guarded US consulate, which has a strong CIA component. By evening, hospital officials said at least five people were dead and more than 50 injured.

After Friday prayers more severe violence erupted in Islamabad, Lahore, Rawalpindi, Multan, and Karachi, where normally bustling streets were instead filled with clouds of tear gas and the sound of gunfire.

Protesters in Karachi burned effigies, stoned a KFC, and engaged in armed clashes with the police that left 14 people dead and more than 80 wounded by evening.

Peaceful protests had been approved by Pakistan’s government, which declared Friday a national holiday, the ‘‘Day of Love for the Prophet Mohammed,’’ as part of an effort to either control, or politically capitalize on, rage against the inflammatory video, which depicts Mohammed, the founder of Islam, as a sexually perverted buffoon.

“An attack on the holy prophet is an attack on the core belief of 1.5 billion Muslims. Therefore, this is something that is unacceptable,’’ said Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf in an address to a religious conference Friday morning in Islamabad.