Thu, Feb 16, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Pakistan protesters torch KFC, cinemas

CARTOON VIOLENCE In Pakistan's third day of protests, angry mobs yesterday set fire to various buildings in Peshawar and the town of Tank after clashes with police


Protesters burned a KFC restaurant and movie theaters in the northwestern city of Peshawar yesterday -- Pakistan's third consecutive day of violent protests over the Prophet Mohammed cartoons, eye witnesses said.

Gunfire was heard near the burning KFC restaurant as police used tear gas and batons to fight back thousands of protesters blocking one of the city's main streets, onlookers said.

The mob burned three movie theaters and offices of Mobilink -- the main mobile phone operator in the country, bystanders said.

Clashes between police and demonstrators injured at least 16 people, witnesses said. Hundreds of Afghan refugees joined the protest in Peshawar, the capital of the conservative North West Frontier Province.

The violence began after about 6,000 protesters gathered at a busy traffic intersection. Many were chanting "Death to Denmark!" and "Hang those who drew the insulting cartoons!" Others burned Danish flags and effigies of the Danish prime minister.

Most shops, public transport and other businesses were closed in Peshawar, the capital of North West Frontier Province.

As police battled protesters in Peshawar, another violent demonstration erupted about 230km away in the town of Tank, where 2,000 people rallied, said Attiq Wazir, a police official in the town.

Protesters set fire to 30 shops selling CDs, DVDs and videos, Wazir said.

Suspected Islamic militants had issued warnings to music shops to close in Tank, on the edge of South Waziristan, a tribal region where security officials have said al-Qaeda-linked foreign fighters are hiding, witnesses said.

One policeman was injured when a protester opened fire to resist arrest, another police official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

Yesterday's violence came a day after thousands of protesters went on a rampage in the eastern city of Lahore, burning Western businesses like McDonald's, KFC and Pizza Hut restaurants. Two people died and police detained 125 people, a police official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

Violent protests also erupted in the capital, Islamabad, on Tuesday. More than 1,000 students forced their way into a heavily guarded enclave housing foreign embassies. They damaged cars and a bank building, but were quickly expelled from the area with tear gas and water cannons.

Police have arrested 142 students in the capital for disrupting peace, damaging property and disregarding orders to disperse, Islamabad police spokesman Naeem Iqbal said.

A violent protest happened on Monday in Peshawar, where thousands of students marched around the city and broke windows.

The cartoons first appeared in Denmark's Jyllands-Posten newspaper and have been reprinted by newspapers around the world, mostly in Europe. One of them depicts the prophet Mohammed wearing a turban shaped as a bomb with an ignited detonator string.

Many Muslims regard any depiction of the prophet as blasphemous. Newspapers publishing the pictures, however, have asserted their news value or the right to freedom of expression.

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