PESHAWAR, Pakistan – A Pakistani cleric announced a $1 million bounty for killing a cartoonist who drew the Prophet Muhammad caricatures, as thousands rallied across the country Friday and authorities arrested scores of protesters.
Police put another Islamist leader under house detention amid fears religious radicals would incite more deadly demonstrations after Friday prayers. Five people have been killed in Pakistan this week during protests, but most demonstrations Friday were peaceful.
In Denmark, where the prophet drawings were first published in September, the government said Friday it had temporarily closed its embassy in Pakistan following the violent protests this week.
Pakistan recalled its ambassador to Denmark for "consultations" about the caricatures, a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said.
Mohammed Yousaf Qureshi, prayer leader at the historic Mohabat Khan mosque in the conservative northwestern city of Peshawar, announced the mosque and the Jamia Ashrafia religious school he leads would give a $25,000 reward and a car for killing the cartoonist who drew the prophet caricatures — considered blasphemous by Muslims.
He also said a local jewelers' association would give $1 million but no representative of the association was available to confirm it had made the offer.
"This is a unanimous decision of by all imams (prayer leaders) of Islam that whoever insults the prophet deserves to be killed and whoever will take this insulting man to his end, will get this prize," Qureshi told about 1,000 people outside the mosque after Friday prayers.
Qureshi did not name any cartoonist in his announcement and did not appear to be aware that 12 different people had drawn the pictures. The crowd outside the mosque burned a Danish flag and an effigy of the Danish prime minister.
The Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten first printed the prophet drawings by 12 cartoonists in September. The newspaper has since apologized to Muslims for the drawings, one of them showing Muhammad wearing a bomb-shaped turban with an ignited fuse.
Other Western newspapers, mostly in Europe but also some in the United States, have reprinted the pictures, asserting their news value and the right to freedom of expression.
The publication of the drawings set off weeks of protests across the Muslim world in which at least 19 people have been killed, most of them in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
In Islamabad, former President Clinton criticized the drawings but said Muslims wasted an opportunity to build better ties with the West by mounting violent protests.
"I can tell you most people in the United States deeply respect Islam ... and most people in Europe do," he said.
Clerics at mosques across Pakistan condemned the caricatures at Friday prayers.
"Give enough power to the Muslim countries and enable them to take revenge," said Qari Saeed Ullah, a prayer leader in Islamabad.
Thousands of demonstrators defied a ban on rallies in Punjab, one of Pakistan's four provinces. Thousands of security forces were deployed across the country to prevent unrest.
Police arrested 125 protesters for violating the ban on rallies in eastern Pakistan and 70 others after firing tear gas to disperse protests in the southern city of Karachi.
In Peshawar, where violent protests Wednesday left two dead and scores injured, police fired tear gas to disperse more than 1,000 people trying to block a street. Four effigies representing Danish, German, French and Norwegian leaders were hanged from lampposts.
Police in eastern Punjab province were ordered to restrict the movement of all religious leaders who might address rallies and to round up religious activists who could threaten law and order.
In Multan, another city in Punjab, about 300 police detained 125 protesters, who gathered at a traffic circle, chanting, "We are slaves of the prophet," and trampling on a Danish flag, police official Sharif Zafar said.
Zafar said they had violated the ban on rallies in Punjab — declared after deadly riots in Lahore on Tuesday.
Hafiz Mohammed Saeed, chief of the radical group Jamaat al-Dawat, became the first religious leader detained by authorities since protests began in Pakistan early this month. He was due to make a speech in Faisalabad, about 75 miles away.
Intelligence officials have said scores of members of Jamaat al-Dawat and assorted militant groups joined the Lahore protest Tuesday and incited the violence in a bid to undermine President Gen. Pervez Musharraf's government, a close ally of the United States.
Witnesses said about 7,000 people protested in Rawalpindi, near the capital, while about 5,000 demonstrated in the southwestern city of Quetta. There were no immediate reports of violence. About 5,000 people protested in Karachi in small-scale rallies, and 70 were arrested, said Rauf Siddiqi, the regional home minister.
Denmark's decision to close its embassy comes after the government temporarily closed its embassies in Lebanon, Syria, Iran and Indonesia last week amid anti-Danish protests and threats against staff.
"We have decided to do so because of the general security situation in the country," Foreign Ministry spokesman Lars Thuesen said of the Pakistani closure. "Our staff are still in the country but not at the embassy in Islamabad."
In India, police used batons and tear gas to disperse several thousand angry Muslims worshippers who rioted over the drawings, police said. The protesters burned Danish flags, pelted police with stones, and looted shops after Friday prayers in Hyderabad, a city of 7 million people, nearly half of them Muslim.
Thousands of Hong Kong Muslims also marched Friday to condemn the caricatures.