Thousands howl in Pakistan
More than 70,000 protesters in Peshawar have burnt a fast-food restaurant, offices of two mobile phone companies and three cinemas as violence continues in Pakistan for a third day over the Prophet Muhammad cartoons. Three people were killed and dozens injured in the violence in two cities, police and witnesses said on Wednesday. A 25-year-old man was killed when he was hit by an electric cable that was snapped by gunfire from protesters in an eastern district of Peshawar. The other fatality was an eight-year-old boy shot in the face by a bullet fired by a demonstrator, said Shahid Khan, a police officer. A 30-year-old man was shot dead in a clash with police in Lahore. At least 45 people were being treated for injuries in two state-run hospitals in Peshawar.

Gunfire was heard near a burning KFC restaurant as police used tear gas and batons to fight back thousands of protesters blocking one of the city's main streets. The rioters ransacked the offices of Telenor, the Norwegian mobile phone company, witnesses said. They also burnt a KFC restaurant, three cinemas and offices of Mobilink - the main mobile phone operator in the country. A bus terminal operated by Daewoo, the Korean conglomerate, was torched, police said. Hundreds of Afghan refugees joined the protest in Peshawar, the capital of the North West Frontier Province. Many were chanting "Death to Denmark!" and "Hang those who drew the insulting cartoons". Others burnt Danish flags and effigies of the Danish prime minister.

Most shops, public transport and other businesses were closed in the city. As police battled protesters in Peshawar, another violent demonstration erupted about 230km away in the town of Tank, where 2000 people rallied. Attiq Wazir, a police official, said protesters set fire to 30 shops in Tank selling music CDs and DVDs. Suspected Muslim hardliners 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.

One policeman was injured when a protester opened fire to resist arrest, another police official said. As the violence raged in Peshawar, fighting flared up in the eastern city of Lahore for the second straight day. Some 1500 students surprised police by staging an unannounced rally outside Punjab University, said Chaudhry Shafqat, a senior police official. Shafqat said the students beat up a police officer and disrupted traffic on a main road. He said: "It all happened suddenly, and we are trying to control the situation." On Tuesday, thousands of protesters went on a rampage in Lahore, burning Western businesses like McDonald's, KFC and Pizza Hut restaurants. Two people died and police detained 125 people.

Violent protests also erupted in the capital, Islamabad, on Tuesday. More than 1000 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. Naeem Iqbal, the Islamabad police spokesman, said 142 students were arrested for disrupting the peace, damaging property and disregarding orders to disperse.
Posted by: Fred 2006-02-16