Two people have been killed during protests in Pakistan against the publication of cartoons caricaturing the Prophet Mohammed.

The two demonstrators were shot dead during riots in Lahore during which Western fast food outlets and other buildings were attacked amid demonstrations by an estimated 15,000 people.

Police earlier fired tear gas and water cannon against hundreds of students who broke away from a larger crowd of about 3,000 protestors and stormed into a high-security compound in Islamabad and headed for the British, French and Indian embassies.

Hours later around 5,000 traders massed outside the parliament building in Islamabad before dispersing peacefully.

In northwestern Peshawar city around 1,500 people joined several separate rallies and police tear-gassed 200 students who burned tyres to block the main road out of the city. 

Today's deaths bring the number of people who have died in unrest caused by the controversy to 15.

Eleven others died in the past two weeks in neighbouring Afghanistan and one each in Lebanon and Somalia.

Today's protests have been described as the worst in Pakistan since the controversy erupted last month. The escalation is being linked to the upcoming visit of the US President, George W Bush, to Pakistan next month.

The cartoons, first published in a Danish newspaper in September, have since been reprinted in several other publications, mostly European.