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Protests Erupt in 4 Pakistani Cities Over Prophet Cartoons

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Special to The Times

Angry protests erupted in four Pakistani cities over published caricatures of the prophet Muhammad, and at least two people were killed.

Pakistani Interior Minister Aftab Sherpao said the government would take action against the protesters. “No one will be allowed to take the law into their hands,” he said.

Police in Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital, and in Lahore, its second-largest city, used tear gas and batons to disperse crowds Tuesday.

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This morning, protesters burned a KFC restaurant and movie theaters in Peshawar, and a crowd set fire to 30 shops selling CDs and movies in Tank, wire services reported.

In Islamabad, students forced their way into the heavily guarded diplomatic enclave, which houses most foreign embassies. Islamabad’s police chief, Sikander Hayat, said more than 100 students were arrested.

Lawmakers from ruling and opposition parties marched from Parliament House to the diplomatic enclave to condemn the satirical caricatures. They carried placards demanding an apology from the governments of those countries where the cartoons were published.

Protesters in Lahore set vehicles and buildings on fire, including outlets of U.S. fast-food chains KFC and McDonald’s. The crowd also tried to torch a bank, whose security guard opened fire. The interior minister confirmed that two people had been shot and killed.

Merchants in both cities shut down to protest the caricatures, paralyzing business.

Pakistani authorities had tightened security in Islamabad’s diplomatic enclave two weeks ago in anticipation of possible attacks by protesters. But thousands of university students from Islamabad and nearby Rawalpindi gathered and marched on the main entrance, making their way into the high-security zone.

The students also threw stones at a Standard Chartered Bank and damaged signs and billboards of foreign telecommunications companies. They chanted slogans including “Punish the blasphemers!” “Down with Denmark!” and “Down with U.S.!” The caricatures were originally published in Denmark, but some protesters accuse the United States of overall responsibility.

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Pakistan’s religious parties have called for shops and businesses to close in a further protest March 3.

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