Mohammed film protests turn violent in Kabul

AMIR SHAH AND RAHIM FAIEZ
Last updated 21:40 17/09/2012
A MATTER OF RELIGION: An Afghan protester shouts slogans during a demonstration in Kabul against a film mocking the Prophet Mohammed.
Reuters

A MATTER OF RELIGION: An Afghan protester shouts slogans during a demonstration in Kabul against a film mocking the Prophet Mohammed.

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Hundreds of Afghans burned cars and threw rocks at a United States military base as a demonstration against an anti-Islam film that ridicules the Prophet Mohammed turned violent in the Afghan capital, Kabul.

And in Jakarta, Indonesians angered over the film clashed with police outside the US Embassy, hurling rocks and Molotov cocktails and burning tires outside the mission. At least one police officer was seen bleeding from the head and being carried to safety by fellow officers.

The low-budget film, privately produced in the US, portrays Mohammed as a fraud, a womaniser and a child molester. It sparked violent protests in many Muslim countries in recent days, many of them outside US diplomatic posts around the world.

The US Ambassador to Libya was killed during an attack on the consulate in Benghazi last week; protesters have also stormed the US Embassy in Tunis and held violent demonstrations outside posts in Egypt and Sudan. The US has responded by deploying additional military forces to increase security in certain hotspots.

In Kabul on Monday, the air was thick with smoke on Jalalabad road - a main thoroughfare into the city centre where the crowd burned shipping containers and tires. At least one police vehicle was burned by the mob before they finally dispersed around midday, according Daoud Amin, the deputy police chief for Kabul province.

Earlier in the morning, men lobbed rocks from the pavement and lobbed them at Camp Phoenix, a US military base that lies along the road. More than 20 police officers were slightly injured - all from being hit by rocks, said General Fahim Qaim, the commander of a city quick-reaction police force.

"Death to America!" and "Death to those people who have made a film and insulted our prophet," shouted the crowd. Police officers shot into the air to hold back about 800 people and prevent them from pushing toward government buildings downtown, said Azizullah, a police officer at the site who, like many Afghans, only goes by one name.

As the Jalalabad rally was broken up, demonstrations picked up elsewhere in the city. In the southeastern part of Kabul, about 50 protesters gathered in front of a mosque, shouting "Death to America," said police officer Ahmad Shafiq but there were no signs of violence.

Protester Mohammad Humayun, 28, called on US President Barack Obama to bring those who have insulted the prophet to justice.

"People around the world are angry," he added. "It is the responsibility of all Muslims to show reaction whenever they hear any disregard and disrespect."

Wahidullah Hotak, another protester, said the rallies will continue "until the people who made the film go to trial."

A number of Afghan religious leaders urged calm.

"Our responsibility is to show a peaceful reaction, to hold peaceful protests. Do not harm people, their property or public property," said Karimullah Saqib, a cleric in Kabul.

Outside the US Embassy in Jakarta, people also tried to ignite a fire truck as Molotov cocktails exploded against a fence surrounding the embassy compound. Police used a bullhorn to call for calm.

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The demonstration started off peacefully as the group of several hundred protesters, many dressed in white, marched toward the mission. The US Embassy has issued an emergency message to American citizens, saying about 1,000 people were expected to demonstrate in front of the mission with about 1,500 police on hand.

Demonstrations were also held Monday in the Indonesian cities of Medan and Bandung. Over the weekend in the central Java town of Solo, protesters stormed KFC and McDonald's restaurants, forcing customers to leave and management to close the stores.

In neighbouring Pakistan, around 3,000 students and teachers rallied Monday against the film in the town of Chaman in southwestern Baluchistan province. The crowd burned an American flag and an effigy of Obama, said officer Mohammad Shahid.

Teacher Abdul Malik said it was an obligation of all Muslims to protest the video, while Abdul Waris, a 12-year-old student who attended the rally, said his teachers told him the US and Israel produced the film. The teachers cancelled classes and told the students to go protest

The Afghan government has blocked video-sharing web site YouTube to prevent Afghans from viewing a clip of the anti-Muslim film. Officials have said it will remain blocked until the video is taken down. Other Google services, including Gmail, were also blocked in Afghanistan during much of the weekend and the block continued on some providers Monday.

The wave of international violence began on Tuesday when mainly Islamist protesters climbed the US Embassy walls in the Egyptian capital of Cairo and tore down the American flag from a pole in the courtyard.

Chris Stevens, the US ambassador to Libya, was killed Tuesday along with three other Americans, as violent protesters stormed the consulate in Benghazi. Obama has vowed that the attackers would be brought to justice but also stressed that the US respects religious freedom.

- AP

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