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Friday, 21 September, 2001, 16:54 GMT 17:54 UK
Pakistan protests turn violent
Karachi protest
Police broke up a rally in Karachi
Four people have died and several others have been injured in the Pakistani city of Karachi as pro-Taleban protests there turned violent.

They are the first deaths after days of protests against the Pakistan Government's decision to back the United States in its campaign against Afghanistan.

If America wants a crusade, then we are ready for a holy war

Speaker at protest rally
Thousands of people have taken to the streets across the country in what correspondents describe as the largest such gatherings in recent days.

But correspondents say most of the protesters appear to be supporters of religious parties who have called the nationwide strike.


Three people were shot dead in Karachi during violent demonstrators in areas dominated by Afghans.

Police used tear gas to break up several rallies as the demonstrators hurled stones and attacked shops and business establishments.

A shopkeeper was lynched to death when he tried to defy the strike call and open his shop.

Jamiat-Ulema-i-Islam leader, Faz ul Rehman, addresses an anti-US rally in Peshawar
Religious leaders addressed the massive crowds
In Peshawar, which borders Afghanistan, angry protesters gathered before and after Friday prayers to hear religious leaders make speeches in support of the Taleban and Osama Bin Laden.

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf pledged to co-operate with Washington in trying to capture Bin Laden, who it says was behind last week's attacks in New York and Washington.

Speakers at the rallies attacked US President George W Bush's use of the word "crusade" to describe his planned war on terrorism.

"If America wants a crusade, then we are ready for a holy war," said one preacher.

Cleric warning

In the capital Islamabad, a cleric at the Lal Masjid mosque warned President Musharraf against co-operating with the US.

"Musharraf, listen: The nation will not accept your decision, and any collaboration with the United States is treason," he said.

"The government's hasty decision doesn't enjoy support of the people," said Qazi Hussain Ahmed, chief of the Jamaat-e-Islami, the country's main religious party.

Anti-US poster
Anger at the decision to back the US
Correspondents say Pakistan is critical to the US campaign and the strike will be an important barometer of public opinion.

Senior Muslim clerics in Afghanistan have called on Bin Laden to leave the country voluntarily.

But they have also passed a resolution calling for a jihad, or holy war, in response to any American attack on Afghanistan, and vowed retaliation against any country supporting US action.

A Peshawar protest organiser told the Associated Press news agency: "If our government gives air or ground space to America, we will declare a jihad against the government."

High alert

In Karachi, some 15,000 police have been put on high alert, concentrating on the airport as well as foreign consulates and businesses.

Police officials said they had received assurances from Muslim leaders that there would be no violence.

A former Pakistani intelligence chief, Hameed Gul, warned that any US attack on Afghanistan would destabilise the entire region.

Pakistan's main political parties, including the Pakistan People's Party and the Muslim League, have however indicated they will support President Musharraf's stance.

Kashmir protest

Meanwhile, police in Indian-administered Kashmir fired teargas on hundreds of Muslims protesting against a possible US attack on Afghanistan.

Security forces also used batons to disperse the demonstrators, who took to the streets of the capital Srinagar to mark a general strike.

The demonstration turned violent after Friday prayers as militants torched US flags outside the city's main mosque.

The BBC's Paul Welsh in Peshawar
"We are still in the early stages and people are dying in this country"
The BBC's Adam Brookes
"The protests are not yet a threat for President Musharraf"
The BBC's Susannah Price in Islamabad
"Crunch time will come if and when we begin to see American military action"
See also:

19 Sep 01 | Media reports
Text: Musharraf rallies Pakistan
18 Sep 01 | South Asia
Karachi protest against US
18 Sep 01 | South Asia
Analysis: Pakistan's tough choice
19 Sep 01 | South Asia
Kabul checkpoints stem refugee exodus
19 Sep 01 | South Asia
Embassies act on Pakistan unrest
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