QUETTA, Pakistan — Thousands of supporters of Afghanistan's Taliban regime rampaged through this southwestern Pakistani city for hours Monday, setting fire to three movie houses, the city's main police station, shops, banks and a U.N. compound and showering police with rocks and bricks.
Smaller demonstrations aimed at the United States and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf swept through other cities as hard-line religious groups reacted to the U.S.-led attacks on Afghanistan.
"Musharraf is a traitor," said Mirza Bajwa, 33, a student at International Islamic University who took part in a demonstration in the capital, Islamabad. "He has betrayed the blood of the nation's martyrs."
At a news conference Monday, Musharraf acknowledged the militant opposition but insisted that the "vast majority" of the population backed his decision to join the U.S.-led anti-terrorism coalition.
The Taliban's ambassador to Pakistan decried the coalition's military operations as "terrorist attacks." Abdul Salam Zaeef claimed that more than 20 civilians in the Afghan capital, Kabul, were killed in Sunday's attacks.
Demonstrations were also held Monday in the Pakistani cities of Karachi, Rawalpindi and Lahore. But the angriest crowds were in the frontier cities of Quetta and Peshawar, which have large Afghan refugee populations. By far the most violent response took place in Quetta, a provincial capital that has become a hotbed of Taliban supporters.
After failing to subdue the Quetta mobs with baton charges and volleys of tear gas, special paramilitary troops opened fire with automatic weapons, killing at least one protester and seriously wounding four others. By evening, an uneasy calm had taken hold.
The demonstrators, looking to attack symbols of the international community, tried twice to charge the main hotel housing the foreign press corps but were kept back by ranks of police using tear gas. Foreign journalists were kept inside the hotel grounds by police, in what authorities said was a safety measure.
But the quarantine did not prevent the journalists from hearing the frenzied shouts of demonstrators and from being exposed to the acrid tear gas meant to keep the throngs at bay.
The medical officer of Civil Hospital in Quetta, who gave his name as Dr. Abdullah, confirmed that one person was killed and said that 25 others were injured, including the four seriously wounded.
Including the dead man, identified as Haji Mohammed, seven people suffered gunshot wounds, Abdullah said. The other injuries were from tear gas shells and batons, he said. Several police officers were also hurt by thrown bricks and stones, he added.
U.N. offices and schools in the city were ordered closed, and authorities imposed a state of emergency. But by midafternoon, demonstrators got inside a compound of the United Nations Children's Fund on Airport Road and set alight a garage, destroying five UNICEF cars and vans and three motorbikes. A UNICEF office was also damaged.
Firefighters said they were able to put out an arson fire at one of the city's electric substations before it could shut down power in the south of the city. According to witnesses, demonstrators burned two fire brigade vehicles, three buses belonging to a local university and one National Bank of Pakistan branch. Windows of big companies were smashed, and there were burning tires on almost every street.
Late in the day, the overwhelmed police and reserves got assistance from paramilitary Frontier Corps troops trained in crowd control. The troops imposed a modicum of order. Armored cars and trucks of the anti-terrorist police and the Baluchistan provincial reserves also patrolled the city.
One of the most dramatic moments came at midmorning when a mob threw gasoline bombs and broke through the gate of the city's main police station, forcing the officers inside to flee.
Demonstrators also set fire to three movie houses, one of which often showed American films. Movies, like other forms of entertainment, are condemned as un-Islamic by the Taliban and their sympathizers here in Pakistan.
Quetta is the site of several of the free madrasas, or religious schools, that accept young boys and teenagers from poor families and immerse them for years in the Taliban ideology. The madrasas supply eager recruits for both the Taliban in Afghanistan and radical religious political parties like the Jamiat-ul-Ulema-e-Islam in Pakistan.
A radical cleric, Maulana Ghulam Sarwar, was among those arrested Monday, along with about 200 of his supporters.
At a news conference, two mullahs from the radical Islamic alliance known as the Pakistan and Afghanistan Defense Council denounced the U.S. attacks.
"America attacked in the night, and now the U.S. will pay a big price for these attacks," said Maulana Abdul Wahid.