ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) – Anti-U.S. protests erupted across Pakistan on Friday, with crowds burning American flags, chanting “Death to Bush” and scuffling with police just hours before the U.S. leader was to arrive for a two-day visit.
Hundreds of police swung batons as they dispersed about 1,000 protesters on a major road in the city of Rawalpindi, about six kilometers (four miles) from where U.S. President George W. Bush’s plane was expected to land.
Some demonstrators chanted “Killer go back” and “Death to America” during the protest that lasted about 30 minutes in the city near the capital, Islamabad. One protester had a bloody forehead, and police pushed at least five others into a van, the photographer said.
The demonstrators were supporters of the Imamia Students Organization, a Shiite Muslim group. Some trampled on the U.S. flag, while others carried Bush portraits with his face crossed out in red.
In the eastern city of Multan, about 80 communist activists chanted “Go back bloody Bush” and “Death to Bush” at a traffic intersection. Dozens of police looked on, and the protesters dispersed peacefully after half an hour.
About 300 university students rallied in Islamabad, burning an effigy of Bush. Some carried signs that said, “Go back, go back big Satan Bush.”
Javed Rahman, one of the protesters, said, “We are protesting against the coming of Bush because we hate him. He is the killer of so many innocent people, so many innocent Muslims.”
About 1,000 Islamists also rallied in the southern city of Karachi, the country’s largest city. They torched U.S. flags and chanted, “Pakistani nation wants head of Bush!”
Pakistan promised ironclad security for Bush’s visit, with one official saying hundreds of army commandos and paramilitary troops would be patrolling the capital. “We have made foolproof arrangements for the safe stay of President Bush and we do not think there will be any problem,” said Brig. Javed Iqbal Cheema, a senior Interior Ministry official who also coordinates with U.S. authorities on counterterrorism issues.
Cheema gave no other details about security arrangements. But a senior intelligence official said on condition of anonymity because of the secretive nature of his job that a three-tier security cordon has been planned for Bush’s stay in Islamabad.
Pakistani security forces working with U.S. Marines have chalked out a comprehensive security plan that includes provision of night vision goggles to security personnel posted on the hills overlooking Islamabad, he said. Anti-aircraft guns also have been set up on the hills and buildings near the air force base where Bush’s Air Force One jet will land late Friday, he said. U.S. Marines and Pakistani security experts will use high-technology equipment to jam any remotely detonated explosives that may be hidden along the route Bush’s motorcade is expected to travel in Islamabad, he said.
Hundreds of Pakistan army commandos and paramilitary troops will patrol the capital and helicopters will carry out air surveillance over Islamabad, he said.
Roads to be used by Bush and Pakistan President Gen. Pervez Musharraf have been declared off-limits to pedestrians and any other vehicles, he said. A deadly explosion Thursday was a chilling reminder of the security risks in this volatile country. A suicide bomber rammed his car into an American diplomat’s vehicle in the southern city of Karachi, killing the envoy and his Pakistani driver. A paramilitary guard and an unidentified woman also died and more than 50 were injured.