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U.S. Businesses Torched In Pakistan

More than 1,000 protesters stormed into Islamabad's diplomatic district while thousands vandalized Western businesses and torched a government building in another city Tuesday, in Pakistan's worst wave of violence against the Prophet Mohammad cartoons.

At least two people were killed, when a bank security guard opened fire to prevent demonstrators from forcing their way into a bank in Lahore.

Police fired into the air as they tried to disperse a rampaging crowd in the eastern city of Lahore. The protesters smashed windows and torched the sprawling provincial assembly building, witnesses said.

Some of the stone-throwing protesters targeted Western businesses in Lahore, breaking windows at a Holiday Inn hotel and Pizza Hut, KFC and McDonald's restaurants. Four buildings burned down, including the ones housing the hotel, Kentucky Fried Chicken, two banks, and a Norwegian cell phone company. They also damaged over 200 cars, two banks, dozens of shops and a large portrait of President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, witnesses said.

The protesters also looted the office of Telenor, the Norwegian mobile phone company, and people ran away with computers, mobile phones and other equipment, witnesses said.

Clouds of tear gas were hanging over central Lahore where the violence was occurred.

In other dcevelopments:

  • A Danish Muslim leader said his group was ready to accept part of the blame for massive international protests over cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, but insisted the group took its complaints to the Middle East because Denmark's government would not listen. Ahmad Akkari, a 28-year-old Lebanese immigrant to Denmark, told The Associated Press his network was willing to accept one-third of the responsibility for the firestorm, if the government and the Danish paper that first published the drawings shared the rest.
  • The violent protests underscore the need to build democracy in the Middle East, a senior U.S. official said Tuesday. "Democracy, not various forms of dictatorship, is the system best equipped to reconcile these values," Daniel Fried, assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian Affairs, said. "States based on intolerance are not states who will help these values into the 21st century."
  • Dialogue between Europe and the Muslim world is more important than ever, European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana said Tuesday in Cairo, where he came on a tour of the region to discuss the ongoing crisis over the Prophet Muhammad drawings printed in European newspapers. "The most important thing is to cooperate and build bridges between Europe and the Muslim world," Solana said.
  • An Italian Cabinet minister from a right-wing party was quoted Tuesday as saying he planned to wear T-shirts bearing some of the Prophet Muhammad cartoons that have angered many in the Muslim world.

  • Protests have been held across Pakistan during the past week, but Tuesday's demonstrations in Lahore and the capital, Islamabad, were the most violent and destructive.

    The unrest began Tuesday in the capital - about 180 miles northwest of Lahore - when a crowd of about 1,000 people, mostly students, marched into a diplomatic enclave through the main gate. The entrance was guarded by about a dozen police who didn't resist the mob of mostly students.

    Once inside the fenced-off enclave, the crowd charged about a half mile down the road to the British High Commission, or embassy, where they rallied briefly until police expelled them with tear gas.

    The crowd also gathered outside the French Embassy.

    Some of the stick-wielding protesters damaged road signs and broke a bank's window in the enclave, which houses most of the embassies and some residential compounds for diplomats in Islamabad. The crowded totaled between 1,000 and 1,500 people.

    U.S. and British embassy staffers were confined to their compounds until police quickly expelled the protesters from the enclave.

    "We heard there were some protesters who entered the diplomatic enclave and for security reasons we were advised not to leave the High Commission," said a British Embassy official.

    Outside the enclave, the protesters smashed street lights and burned tires while chanting "Death to America" and other slogans. Police rounded up about 50 protesters and put them in pickup trucks.

    Another protest in Islamabad drew about 4,000 people, and a separate demonstration involved about 50 lawmakers from religious and moderate parties who marched from Parliament to the diplomatic enclave. They stood silently outside the enclave's main gate for five minutes before dispersing peacefully.

    Hard-line cleric Hafiz Hussain Ahmad, senior leader of a six-party group of religious parties, said, "We have come to the doors of the embassies to take our voice to the ambassadors. There is anger in the Islamic world. If they do not listen, their problems will increase," he said.

    People in the conservative Muslim nation have been enraged by the publication of the cartoons, which first appeared in a Danish newspaper in September. Papers in other countries, mostly in Europe, reprinted them. One of the caricatures depicts Muhammad wearing a turban shaped as a bomb with an ignited detonator string.

    There have been a series of mostly peaceful protests across Pakistan against the cartoons, and last week Parliament adopted resolutions condemning the drawing.

    On Monday, about 7,000 protested against the cartoons in the northwestern city of Peshawar, smashing windows at universities with stones and police fired tear gas and swung batons to stop them from marching on the residence of the provincial governor.

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