Tear gas and gunfire in Islamabad

From the Times of India, Feb. 19:

ISLAMABAD: Security forces put a cordon around the Pakistani capital and made hundreds of arrests, before using tear gas and gunfire to quash a banned protest Sunday against cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, witnesses and officials said.

Police detained several lawmakers and Islamist leaders during raids in three cities ahead of the planned rally in Islamabad, where a few hundred demonstrators clashed with security forces for three hours, hurling stones and injuring at least two policemen.

Denmark, where the cartoons were first published in September, temporarily withdrew its ambassador from Islamabad Sunday in the midst of the tension, the Danish foreign ministry said in a statement.

Opposition leader Maulana Fazlur Rahman, who denounced a government ban on the demonstration as unconstitutional, was granted 11th-hour permission to lead a small rally of eight other opposition lawmakers and about 25 of their supporters through a square in the city center.

They chanted ‘God is great!’ and ‘Any friend of America is traitor’, as they marched. Authorities mounted roadblocks around the capital and declared they would arrest anyone joining a gathering of more than five people to prevent the rally called by MMA.

Paramilitary troops patrolled in pickup trucks with mounted machine guns, and soldiers behind sand bag bunkers guarded government buildings.

See our last post on the unrest in Pakistan.

  1. Meanwhile in Indonesia…
    JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Hundreds of Muslim protesters brandishing sticks and hurling stones attacked the U.S. Embassy in Indonesia on Sunday, claiming the United States was on a mission to destroy Islam. No one was injured in the melee.

    The protesters were angry at the publication of Prophet Mohammed cartoons in mostly European newspapers, and the rowdy scene showed how America is often blamed for many of the perceived injustices felt in the Islamic world.

    The U.S. Embassy condemned the violence, saying it was a “premeditated event” staged for television by a small group that “seeks to disrupt the relationship between the United States and Indonesia.”…

    Shouting anti-U.S. slogans, about 400 people arrived at the heavily fortified mission in the center of the capital Jakarta, marching behind a banner that read “we are ready to attack the enemies of the Prophet.”

    They then tried to storm the gates, brandishing wooden staves and lobbing stones. They set fire to U.S. flags and a poster of U.S. President George W. Bush, and smashed the windows of a guard outpost before disbursing after a few minutes.

    “They (Western countries) want to destroy Islam through the issue of terrorism … and all those things are engineered by the United States,” said Maksuni, a protest organizer who only uses one name.

    “We are fighting America fiercely this time,” he said. “And we also are fighting Denmark,” where the cartoons, including one showing Muhammad wearing a bomb-shaped turban, first appeared several months ago.

    Newspapers that reprinted the caricatures did so asserting their news value and the right to freedom of expression.

    On February 6, police fired warning shots to stop protesters from ripping a plaque from the wall of the U.S. consulate in Surabaya, the Indonesia’s second largest city. Protesters also briefly stormed the lobby of the high-rise building housing the Danish Embassy in Jakarta…

    The protesters Sunday were members of the Islamic Defenders Front, which campaigns for Islamic law and often takes to the street against perceived violators of Islamic rules at home or abroad.