Staving off a protest that became as violent as it was quickly subdued, Pakistani police fired off live rounds and shot tear gas into a crowd of more than 1,000 students Thursday as protesters attempted to demonstrate in front of the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad. Furious over the Innocence of Muslims film that has sparked blowback across the globe, protesters burned U.S. flags and hurled objects at riot police amid fires and clouds of tear gas in Pakistan's capital.
According to India's NDTV, the protesters were headed toward Islamabad's diplomatic enclave where the U.S. Embassy is located until they were thwarted by police, who set up a barrier of truck containers to block access to the embassy. “I was ordered by my boss to disperse the crowd and that is why I had to open live fire but the aim was nearby trees and not the demonstrators,” Zaman Khan, a police officer, told Dawn newspaper. Russia Today has a video of protesters attempting to penetrate the barrier and brandishing black Islamic flags:
Pakistan's Express Tribune, meanwhile, has uploaded video of protesters clashing with police in the streets as helicopters fly overhead:
According to Pakistan's Dawn newspaper, at least 11 people were injured as "enraged students" pelted police with stones. Explaining the crowd's collective anger, Protester Rehand Ahmad told Dawn that “Islam is often ridiculed by America and the West and blasphemy is committed against our prophet in the name of freedom of expression.” Below, Reuters captures a protester hurling a teargas canister after it was fired:
According to reports on the ground, authorities were able to disperse the protesters, although they have vowed to return to the U.S. Embassy tomorrow. The Guardian reports that "The demonstrators have reportedly vowed to return tomorrow, which Pakistan has declared as a national holiday to enable people to rally against the US-made anti-Islam film." BBC correspondent Aleem Maqbool tweets:
Looks like we'll be back to covering this tomorrow. Stay tuned.