Clashes at Charlie Hebdo protest in Karachi, three injured

16th January 2015, Comments 0 comments

At least three people were injured Friday in clashes between anti-Charlie Hebdo protesters and police outside the French consulate in Pakistan's Karachi, officials said, including an AFP photographer who was shot in the back.

The protest by the student wing of the Jamaat-e-Islami religious party was one of several staged across Pakistan by Islamist groups after Friday prayers against the French magazine's depiction of the Prophet Mohammed.

"Three injured were brought to the hospital, two were minor injuries and one photographer was serious," said Doctor Seemi Jamali, a spokeswoman for the city's main Jinnah hospital, referring to AFP's Asif Hassan, 38.

"The bullet struck his lung, and passed through his chest. He is out of immediate danger and he has spoken to his colleagues," she continued, adding that Hassan was hit by what appeared to be a live round.

The others injured were a policeman and a local TV cameraman who were discharged after receiving first aid treatment.

Senior police official Abdul Khaliq Sheikh told AFP the violence began when some 350 protesters were prevented by police from approaching the French consulate, in the southern part of the sprawling metropolis.

"When the police tried to stop them they started firing," he said, adding that the police responded with tear gas and water cannon to disperse the protesters.

Police said Hassan and the other journalist did not appear to have been deliberately targeted but were caught in crossfire when protesters shot at the police.

A witness at the scene backed the police account, though the religious party blamed the police.

"Police are responsible for those wounded during the protest including Asif Hasan," said Hafiz Bilal Ramzan, head of the party's student wing.

- French flags burnt -

Elsewhere in Pakistan, protesters in the northwest city of Peshawar and central Multan burnt French flags on the streets, while rallies were also held in the capital Islamabad and the eastern city of Lahore.

The demonstrations come a day after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif led parliament in condemning the cartoons in Charlie Hebdo, whose Paris offices were attacked last week by Islamist gunmen who killed 12 people.

The newspaper is known for ridiculing religious figures, including the pope and Mohammed, and its defiant post-attack issue released Wednesday again featured the prophet on its front page.

The new cover has sparked anger in parts of the Islamic world, with protests staged from the Philippines and Turkey to Kuwait and Mauritania.

Many Muslims find any depiction of the prophet highly offensive, let alone images satirising him.

The magazine's new cover shows Mohammed with a tear in his eye, under the headline "All is forgiven". He holds a sign reading "Je Suis Charlie" (I Am Charlie), the slogan that has become a global rallying cry for supporters of the victims and freedom of speech.

Thousands of religious party activists turned out across Pakistan on Friday, including followers of Jamaat-ud-Dawa, the charitable wing of the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group which masterminded the attacks on Mumbai in 2008.

The group has come under the spotlight since Pakistan vowed to crack down on all militant groups, including those considered friendly to its interests, following a Taliban school massacre last month that left 150 people dead.

Jamaat-e-Islami chief Siraj-ul-Haq later announced his party would hold another protest next Friday, telling TV channel Geo News: "The French government will have to apologise to the Muslim countries."

The Jamat-ul-Ahrar faction of the Pakistani Taliban earlier issued a statement lauding the two brothers who carried out the Charlie Hebdo assault, saying "they freed the earth from the existence of filthy blasphemers".

In addition to protests by religious parties, lawyers have vowed to boycott court proceedings to show their displeasure over the sketches.

Insulting the prophet carries the death penalty under Pakistan's tough blasphemy laws, with 14 people currently languishing on death row for the offence.

Mobs often take matters into their own hands and lynch those accused of blasphemy, and such killers are widely feted.

Pakistan has a history of violent protests following the publication in the West of material considered blasphemous.

In 2012, at least 21 people were killed and 229 wounded, mainly in clashes with police following the publication of previous cartoons by Charlie Hebdo and the broadcast of a US made anti-Islam film.

Protests against cartoons by a Danish paper left five dead in 2006.


© 2015 AFP

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