Pakistani Muslim demonstrators carry placards as they march during a protest against an anti-Islam film in Lahore on September 20, 2012. Thousands of protesters angry at a US-made anti-Islam film clashed with police close to Islamabad's diplomatic enclave on Thursday in chaotic scenes that left at least 50 people injured.
Credit: ARIF ALI

The US State Department issued a travel warning for US citizens on Thursday, telling them to avoid traveling to Pakistan as a fresh round of protests broke out over an anti-Islam film.

Reuters said State Department officials upgraded their warning about travel risks in Pakistan, telling Americans to delay any non-essential travel. The warning said the presence of Al Qaeda and Taliban elements, as well as "indigenous militant sectarian groups poses a potential danger to US citizens throughout Pakistan."

More than 2,000 protesters tried to reach the US embassy inside a guarded enclave in Islamabad on Thursday, but were blocked by riot police using batons and tear gas, the Associated Press reported.

The BBC said protesters burned an effigy of President Barack Obama and threw objects at the police. One demonstrator said, "The infidel who produced the movie should be hanged, or hand over him to the Muslims. And we don't want any (US) diplomat or embassy in Pakistan: all relations should be cut off."

Bloomberg reported that Pakistan deployed the army to protect diplomatic missions in Islamabad against the threat of violence. "We have to do everything we can to protect foreigners in the country," said Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira. "Is this the way to show respect to our Prophet?"

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Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf's government announced a public holiday on Friday, to celebrate the Prophet and allow people to protest the film, said Bloomberg. It's also the day religious political parties called for nationwide demonstrations.

The AP reported that advertisements bearing the US embassy seal have been appearing on Pakistani television, showing Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemning the anti-Islam film, "Innocence of Muslims," during appearances in Washington.

The subtitled ads appear to be an effort by the US government to placate anger and anti-American sentiment sparked by the film, which caused protests to erupt across the Muslim world.

"We absolutely reject its content and message," Clinton said in the ad. The AP added that the embassy sent out a link to a video with American citizens condemning the film.

The AP noted that there were demonstrations in Lahore, Chaman, Karachi and Peshawar, though those remained peaceful.

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Watch footage of the protests, courtesy of Euronews:

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