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ISLAMABAD — On the eve of a public holiday to protest an anti-Islam video made in the United States, thousands of demonstrators battled with police officers for hours on Thursday near the capital’s diplomatic quarter, and the U.S. Embassy broadcast advertisements on local television stations showing U.S. leaders denouncing the video.

The ads, a public relations effort to tamp down anti-American sentiment, featured clips of President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton criticizing the YouTube video, which depicts the Prophet Muhammad as a womanizing buffoon.

The clips, which carried the official seal of the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, were broadcast in English and subtitled in Urdu, the national language.

The failure of the police to stop demonstrators from assembling near the U.S. Embassy and other diplomatic missions left the government scrambling. Its ministers blamed opposition political parties and banned militant groups for instigating unrest.

The State Department issued a travel warning advising Americans to avoid travel to Pakistan.

Some viewers had a lukewarm response to the American ads.

A security analyst based in Karachi, Pakistan, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said, “The messages do not matter because all those instigating or supporting the protests benefit from the publicity of the protest.”

Rao Zahid, 30, a government employee in Islamabad, said: “The video message is a cover-up. Google did not ban the video in America. No case was registered against the producer. If the American government wanted, it could have done a lot.”

In Los Angeles on Thursday, a judge refused to order YouTube — which is owned by Google — to remove the video.