Anti-Charlie Hebdo demonstrators mistakenly burn Italian flag
A large crowd of displaced people from Pakistan's Waziristan region joined local tribesmen the on streets of the northwest town of Bannu on Monday (January 19) to protest against satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo.
The magazine published a picture of the Prophet Muhammad weeping on its cover last week after two gunmen stormed its offices and killed 12 people. The gunmen said their attack was revenge for previous cartoons the magazine had published mocking Islam.
Protesters in Bannu gathered in the main market square chanting "Death to the government of France", and setting fire to two effigies, one of former French President Nicolas Sarkozy and one the crowd said represented the editor of Charlie Hebdo.
An inverse Italian flag, mistakenly thought to be a French flag, was also burnt alongside the two effigies.
Fakhr-e-Azam Wazir, a tribesman displaced from North Waziristan because on the ongoing military operation against Taliban militants, said it was the duty of every Muslim to come out and protest.
"This anger and anguish is against the French magazine and the French government who have insulted our holy prophet. This is our way of expressing our love for Mohammad, the holy prophet. Today we have set fire to their flag, and we have also set fire to President Sarkozy. This is all we can do at this time. By God, if he was here today, we would have set him on fire also," he said, referring to the cartoonist who sketched the latest caricature of the Prophet Mohammad.
The Pakistani government has condemned the magazine for showing disrespect to Islam and its prophet.
But local politician Mohammad Usman Ali Khan said Islamabad should break diplomatic ties with France over the issue.
"I appeal to the inept rulers of Pakistan to sever diplomatic relations with France within 24 hours, or else we will set fire to the government strongholds also. We will lay down our lives for the sake of our beloved prophet," he said as protesters beat the burning effigies with sticks.
On Sunday (January 18), around 5,000 people rallied against Charlie Hebdo in Pakistan's eastern city of Lahore, and the founder of a group banned for militant links urged protesters to boycott French products.
Meanwhile on Friday, protesters trying to storm the French consulate in the southern city of Karachi shot and injured a photographer working for French news agency AFP.