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Hundreds of Pakistani cartoon protesters burn Danish, US flags

world Updated: Feb 22, 2008 21:58 IST

AFP
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Hundreds of angry Muslim youths rallied in major cities in Pakistan on Friday and torched Danish flags to protest against the recent republication of a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed.

Witnesses said about 150 supporters of fundamentalist party Jamaat-i-Islami gathered outside a mosque in the port city of Karachi, flying banners demanding Pakistan sever diplomatic ties with Denmark.

"We don't need to have diplomatic relations with a country that hurts our religious sentiments," the banners read, as demonstrators burned Danish and US flags and chanted: "Death to the cartoonist."

In the capital Islamabad, cries of "Say no to Denmark" rang out as about 300 students from colleges and Islamic schools crowded outside the city's biggest mosque, witnesses said.

They burned an effigy of the Danish cartoonist amid chants of "Crush Denmark" and "We love our Prophet."

Up to 200 religious studies students held similar rallies in the central city of Multan.

Protest leaders vowed to continue their demonstrations.

"We are observing this protest across the country on Saturday and we would not avoid sacrificing our lives for this sacred cause," said Syed Riaz Hussain Shah, one of the demonstrators.

To Muslims, such drawings are blasphemous since Islam prohibits any images of the prophet. Pakistan on Tuesday summoned the Danish envoy in Islamabad to lodge a "strong protest" over republication of the cartoons in Denmark.

The pictures originally appeared in September 2005, sparking anger and protests across the Muslim world. Five people died in Pakistan in February 2006 during violent protests against the cartoons.

At least 17 Danish dailies reprinted a drawing earlier this month, vowing to defend freedom of expression a day after police in Denmark foiled a plot to murder the cartoonist.

Protests swiftly broke out across Pakistan, with hundreds of youths gathering in major cities on February 15 burning effigies of the Danish prime minister.

Hardliners are also unhappy with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's close ties with the US.