KABUL: Following protests in Egypt against an anti-Islamic film and killing of Washington’s ambassador to Libya during a mob attack, security was tightened around US diplomatic missions in Pakistan on Thursday, with officials saying they expected protesters to take to the streets.
Many anxious governments across Asia have stepped up security outside US embassies.
“We have beefed up the security for the possible threats to the US embassy,” Khurram Rasheed, a senior police official responsible for diplomats’ security in Islamabad, told AFP.
“We expect some protests against the embassy tomorrow and we are preparing to handle that.”
In Lahore, police said they had issued an alert to protect the US consulate.
“The security is already tight but we have issued an alert to be careful for any urgent situation,” Abdul Ghaffar Qaisrani, senior police official responsible for security, told AFP.
The low-budget movie was directed by a person that goes by the name Sam Bacile and is believed to be Israeli-American.
The film has been promoted by US pastor Terry Jones, who has drawn protests for burning the Holy Quran and vehemently opposing the construction of a mosque near Ground Zero in New York.
Reaction in Afghanistan, where US-led troops have been waging a decade-long war against the Taliban, has so far been muted. But unwilling to take a risk, President Hamid Karzai postponed his visit to Norway.
“He won’t go, he’s worried about possible riots over the release of the film,” a presidential aide told AFP in Kabul, requesting anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media.
On Wednesday, Karzai and US President Barack Obama discussed how to “help ensure that the circumstances that led to the violence in Libya and Egypt do not pose a threat to US forces or Afghans”, the White House said.
Afghanistan’s government has condemned the film as “inhuman and insulting”, and Pakistan’s said the “abominable” production was designed to stoke inter-faith hatred around the anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks.
In Afghanistan, riots killed around 40 people earlier this year after US troops burnt copies of the Holy Quran on a military base.
Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim country, joined Afghanistan in demanding that YouTube block the crudely made film that has triggered the protests with its mocking portrayal of the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH).
Indonesian authorities are also working with Internet service providers to block access to the film, Communications and Information Ministry spokesman Gatot Dewa Broto told AFP.
“The film certainly is offensive… and has upset Indonesian Muslims. We don’t wish for anyone to be provoked by it and for violence to break out here,” he said.
So far, there has been no trouble in Indonesia.
India, which has the world’s third biggest Muslim population after Indonesia and Pakistan, issued an alert to security forces deployed outside US diplomatic missions.
“We have ordered security officers to be vigilant, to prevent any untoward actions taking place,” home ministry spokesman Kuldeep Singh Dhatwalia said.
“It goes without saying that we are obviously concerned about all internal and international implications in case something happens. So we are taking extra precautions, it is a pre-emptive effort,” he said.
In Bangladesh, which saw protests by tens of thousands of people against the publication of Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) cartoons by a Danish newspaper in 2006, authorities deployed more armed police at the US and other embassies.
The US embassy in Kuala Lumpur, capital of Muslim-majority Malaysia, urged Americans to avoid large crowds and noted the potential for unrest around Friday prayers.
The Philippines, a largely Catholic nation that is home to Muslim group the Abu Sayyaf, said police commandos had been guarding the US embassy in Manila round the clock since the unrest in Libya and Egypt broke out.
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