Pakistani police fire teargas at protesters trying to approach French Embassy


FILE PHOTO: People chant slogans as they set fire to a France's flag during a protest against the cartoon publications of Prophet Mohammad in France and comments by the French President Emmanuel Macron, in Peshawar, Pakistan October 28, 2020. REUTERS/Fayaz Aziz

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Pakistani police on Friday briefly fired tear gas at protesters who broke through security blockades in Islamabad in a failed attempt to demonstrate at the French Embassy against the printing of images depicting the Prophet Muhammad.

No one was injured and protesters later moved back towards a gathering spot originally agreed with the authorities, police said.

Muslims around the world have protested against France and President Emmanuel Macron, who has vowed to stand firm against what he described as attacks on French values and freedom of expression by radical Islamists.

Around 3,000 protesters gathered in Islamabad, about half a km (less than a mile) from the fortified diplomatic enclave where the French Embassy is, according to a Reuters witness.

Roads leading to the enclave were blocked using shipping containers and barbed wire and were guarded by riot police, but protesters managed to climb over the blockades - prompting police to fire teargas.

"We needed to fire teargas shells when the protesters tried to violate their agreement," police official Amanullah Niazi said, referring to an agreement with protest leaders that they would not progress beyond a certain point.

The protest was organised by a traders' association, which has already announced that it would take French products off shelves across the country, and came on the day Pakistan is celebrating the birthday of Prophet Muhammad.

Protests and gatherings marking the occasion were also held in the cities of Karachi, Lahore and Peshawar.

(Reporting by Gibran Peshimam, Asif Shahzad and Reuters TV in Islamabad; Additional reporting by Syed Raza Hasan in Karachi, Editing by William Maclean)

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