Muslim protester dies after inhaling smoke from burning American flag at protest

File photo of a group of protesters burning a US flag. Source: Pakistan Media Archive

A protester in the Pakistani city of Lahore has died in hospital from complications related to smoke inhalation after he attended a protest and inhaled smoke from a burning United States flag.

According to local media, a number of US flags were burnt at the rally, which was held to protest an anti-Islamic film. The victim, Abdullah Ismail, was taken to a local hospital after the protest, complaining of difficulty breathing.

Doctors at the hospital were unable to save the man, who is believed to have been positioned close to the burning flags and thus inhaled a large amount of smoke. A number of other protesters who stood near the burning flags were also treated for smoke inhalation, but are expected to make a full recovery.

The protest, which was attended by approximately 10,000 people, was organized by a group known as Tehreek Hurmat-i-Rasool. In addition to burning the flags, the demonstrators chanted anti-US slogans and scuffled with riot police.

Earlier, a rally was held near Masjid-i-Shuhada, where a number of religious leaders spoke to the crowd. One leader urged Pakistan to boycott US goods, and called for ‘an end to US-led blasphemy against Islam”.

There were also demonstrations in the northwest of Pakistan, with protesters clashing with police and setting fire to a government building. There were reports of some damage to the offices of a media outlet in Upper Dir district because the protesters were unhappy that their rally was not getting enough coverage.

Another protester died in southern Pakistan when police and demonstrators exchanged fire, while several others were wounded. Police responded with tear gas to disperse the crowds, and eventually arrested 40 students protesters.

The death of the Pakistani protester from smoke inhalation after the US flags were burnt appears to be the first recorded case of such an incident occurring. In 2011, protesters in Egypt were hospitalized after also inhaling smoke from burning flags, but all were later released.

Protesters have demanded a full investigation into the source of the flags, with some claiming that they could have been deliberately sabotaged in order to release “toxic fumes”. Others pointed out that the flags, which were believed to have been made in China, were likely made of cheap, synthetic material, and not safe to burn in an area crowded with people.