The United States braced Saturday for more protests over an independently produced anti-Islam film that has ignited anger in the Muslim world, temporarily closing some of its diplomatic missions and warning American citizens in some countries to be vigilant.
The latest warnings follow protests Friday that turned violent in Pakistan, with at least 27 people killed and more than 100 injured in protests ostensibly over the film that saw mobs ransack banks, theaters, government offices and a church in clashes with security forces.
The U.S. mission in Lahore, Pakistan’s second largest city, on Saturday extended the temporary suspension of services amid news of two planned protests expected to draw hundreds, according to a U.S. State Department security announcement.
Protests were also planned at U.S. Embassies in Albania, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Lebanon, while the American mission in Jordan warned U.S. citizens to “exercise caution around all facilities associated with the Government of France.”
Fury over the film has been stoked in recent days by French satire magazine Charlie Hebdo’s decision to publish cartoons of a figure resembling Mohammed, prompting France to temporarily close diplomatic facilities in 20 countries over the weekend.
Amid concerns over the possible fallout from the publication of the cartoons, France banned weekend protests in Paris.
The U.S. Embassy in Jordan, which has been the target of recent protests, warned American citizens to avoid France’s Embassy as well as French schools and cultural centers in the country.
Protesters take to the streets in more than 20 nations
Muslims in more than 20 nations have taken to the streets in protests targeting the United States since September 11 over “Innocence of Muslims,” an obscure, 14-minute trailer for a film that mocks the Prophet Mohammed as a womanizer, child molester and killer.
While most protests have been peaceful, there have been a number of demonstrations notable for their violence that has left more than two dozen people dead — among them U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and three other Americans killed in an attack on the consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
Even so, what transpired in Pakistan on Friday was unique in its size and focus with local institutions targeted as well as international ones.
Pakistani authorities effectively gave their blessing to protests Friday when Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf declared a “national holiday in protest of the film.” But others, including the Tunisian government, ban protests fearing unrest.
Tens of thousands took to the streets in a number of cities, including up to 70,000 in the city of Mardan, northwest of Peshawar, authorities said.
At the end of the demonstration, about 700 protesters — mostly teenagers — broke into a church, vandalizing the sanctuary, senior police official Khalif Nasim told CNN.
The United States counters protests with a television and social media campaign
The United States has been trying to tamp down anger in Pakistan, where tensions have been strained, through television advertisements and a Facebook campaign.
The U.S. State Department spent $70,000 on television public service announcements that it has began airing last week in Pakistan. The ads feature President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton disavowing the video.
On the Facebook page of the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, officials posted a video of two Americans speaking out against the anti-Islam film that has drawn overwhelmingly negative responses.
“If America (does) not have any concern with this film then why (is) their government not taking any action against this act? Why there is no law (to) protect the religious (beliefs) of Muslims?,” read a Facebook post by someone identified as Numra Sheikh.
American diplomatic official summoned in Pakistan
Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, meanwhile, summoned U.S. charges d’affaires Ambassador Richard Hoagland on Friday to demand the United States remove the controversial movie from YouTube, which has been blocked by Islamabad in recent days.
According to a statement, the ministry lodged a protest with Hoagland over the movie, describing it as “a premeditated and a malicious act to spread hatred and violence among people of different faiths.”
Hoagland reiterated the Obama administration’s repeated condemnation of the movie and its message, emphasizing that the United States government had nothing to do with it.
“Ambassador Hoagland stated that this act was a deeply insensitive decision by a single individual to disseminate hatred,” according to a statement released by the U.S. Embassy. “It does not reflect the values of the United States, a nation of more than 300 million people, built upon the pillars of religious freedom and tolerance.”
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