ISLAMABAD - Thousands of Pakistanis have attempted to storm Islamabad's diplomatic enclave, as anger mounted across the Muslim world over perceived Western insults to the Prophet Mohammed.
Similar demonstrations took place in several countries, as the anger that erupted when a US group of Christian extremists released a crudely made film attacking Mohammed was further stoked by caricatures in a French magazine.
In a foretaste of what might come when tens of millions of Muslims leave their mosques on Friday after weekly prayers, crowds in Nigeria, Iran and Afghanistan chanted: "Death to France. Death to America. Death to Israel."
In Islamabad, police fired tear gas and live rounds on Thursday as they defended the heavily guarded diplomatic district, home to Western embassies including that of the US, British and French missions, against mobs of club-wielding protesters.
Dozens of officers were wounded and a police post burnt to the ground before army troops were eventually called in to disperse the protesters, who had breached a wall of shipping containers designed to hold them back.
Western missions are on high alert as the United States investigates a deadly attack on one of its consulates in Libya, and ahead of Friday's prayers, which are often a prelude to protest in the Muslim world.
The White House confirmed that FBI investigators suspected that al-Qaeda may have been linked to the September 11 attack in the Benghazi compound, which left four US officials dead, including the ambassador to Libya.
It is not yet clear whether the attack by armed militants sprang out of the protest movement against the privately produced film or whether it was a pre-planned assault by an organised Islamist faction.