Police and demonstrators clash in 'cartoons' protest

Police attacked stone-throwing protesters with batons and fired tear gas in the north-western city of Peshawar today – Pakistan’s third consecutive day of violent protests over the Prophet Muhammad cartoons, witnesses said.

As police battled protesters in Peshawar, another violent demonstration erupted about 230 kilometres 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 in Tank, 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-Qaida-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 authorised to speak to the media.

In Peshawar, the violence kicked off 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.

Police fired tear gas and used batons to disperse protesters who blocked the street.

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

Today’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 authorised to speak to the media.

Violent protests also erupted in the capital, Islamabad, yesterday. 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 Muhammad 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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