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Pakistan Declares National Day of Protest Friday

Pakistan army called in to protect embassies, US warns against travel to the country

Common Dreams staff

Students protesting in Islamabad Thursday (Photo: Agence France-Presse)

Thousands of people took to the streets in cities across Pakistan on Thursday to express continued anger over the anti-Islam video that has caused international rage for over a week. The demonstrations are expected to multiply on Friday, after the Pakistani government declared a national holiday for people to demonstrate against the film.

Meanwhile, the Pakistani army was called upon to protect foreign embassies, as the total number of protesters reached around 5,000 in Pakistan's capital Islamabad. At least 50 people were injured as police fired tear gas and live rounds towards the crowds as they tore down road blocks and barriers in the city. The crowd chanted: "Obama, Obama, We are all Osama."

Rehman Baig, a postgraduate student, told the Guardian, the crowd was determined to reach the US embassy and demand the dismissal of the US Ambassador.

The demonstrations are only expected to grow on Friday, the traditional Muslim day of prayer, across the world.

The Pakistani government deemed Friday a national holiday "so people can demonstrate peacefully against the film", as well as "a day of love for the prophet." But the move was welcomed by the Taliban and "risks substantially increasing the already high threat of violence on the traditional Islamic holy day," the Guardian reports.

The U.S. State Department on Thursday warned all U.S. citizens to defer non-essential travel to Pakistan until further notice. They "strongly urged" those who are already there to avoid protests and large gatherings.

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