Muslim protests against film spread




Angry demonstrations against an anti-Islam film spread to their widest extent yet today, targeting British and German embassies and clashing with security forces around the Middle East and other Muslim countries.

One protester was killed in Lebanon, and thousands chanted anti-US slogans in dozens of demos from Egypt to Malaysia.

In Sudan, a prominent sheik on state radio urged protesters to march on the German Embassy to protest against alleged anti-Muslim graffiti on mosques in Berlin, and then to the US Embassy to condemn the film.

"America has long been an enemy to Islam and to Sudan," Sheik Mohammed Jizouly said.

Several hundred Sudanese stormed into the German Embassy in the capital Khartoum, burning a car parked behind its gates and setting fire to rubbish bins.

Protesters danced around the burning barrels as palls of black smoke billowed into the sky.

Police firing tear gas drove the protesters out of the compound, and some then began to demonstrate outside the neighbouring British Embassy, shouting slogans, while others left, apparently heading to the US Embassy, which is outside the capital.

A protester was killed in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli in clashes with security forces, after a crowd of protesters set fire to two restaurants. Protesters hurled stones and glass at police in a melee that left 25 people wounded, including 18 police.

Protests were held in cities after weekly Friday Muslim prayers, where many clerics in their mosque sermons denounced the movie produced in the United States that denigrated the Prophet Mohammed.

The spread of protests came after attacks earlier this week on the US embassies in Cairo and the Yemeni capital Sanaa and on a US consulate in Libya, where the ambassador and three other Americans were killed.

After security forces earlier this week stood aside in the face of protesters, Yemen and Egypt made efforts today to contain them.

In an apparent attempt to patch up strained ties with the United States, Egypt's Islamist president, Mohammed Morsi, went on state TV and urged Muslims to protect foreign diplomatic missions - his most direct public move to contain protests.

In east Jerusalem, Israeli police stopped a crowd of around 400 Palestinians from marching on the US consulate to protest over the film. Demonstrators threw bottles and stones at police, who responded by firing stun grenades. Four protesters were arrested.

Security forces in Yemen shot live rounds in the air and fired tear gas at a crowd of around 2,000 protesters trying to march to the US Embassy in the capital, Sanaa.

Though outnumbered by protesters, security forces were able to keep the crowd about a block away from the mission.

A day earlier, hundreds of protesters chanting "Death to America" stormed the embassy compound in Sanaa and burned the American flag.

The embassy said nobody was harmed. Yemen's president, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, quickly apologised to the United States and vowed to track down the culprits.

In Egypt, several hundred protesters massed in Cairo's Tahrir Square after Friday prayers and tore up an American flag, waving a black Islamist flag.

A firebrand Salafi cleric blasted the film and in his sermon in Cairo's Tahrir Square said it was upon Muslims to defend Islam and its prophet.

Many in the crowd moved to join protesters who had been clashing for several days with police between Tahrir and the US embassy. "With our soul, our blood, we will avenge you, our Prophet," they chanted as police fired volleys of tear gas.

Ahead of the clashes, the president spoke for more than seven minutes on state TV, saying: "It is required by our religion to protect our guests and their homes and places of work.

"So I call on all to consider this, consider the law, and not attack embassies, consulates, diplomatic missions or Egyptian property that is private or public."

He denounced the killing of the American ambassador in Libya. "This is something we reject and Islam rejects. To God, the attack on a person to Allah is bigger an attack on the Kaaba," he said, referring to Islam's holiest site in Mecca.

His own Muslim Brotherhood group called for peaceful protests in Tahrir to denounce the film.

The movie, called 'Innocence Of Muslims', ridicules the Prophet Mohammed, portraying him as a fraud, a womaniser and a child molester.

A small, peaceful demonstration was held outside the US Embassy in the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur.

A prominent cleric in Indonesia urged Muslims there to remain calm despite their anger about the film, but Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia, a branch of the international network that advocates a worldwide Islamic state, on its website blamed the US government for allowing the film to be produced and released, calling it "an act of barbarism that cannot go unpunished".

Meanwhile, a Libyan airport official said all flights to and from the eastern city of Benghazi had been cancelled due to security concerns.

Benghazi is where the attack on the US consulate took place Tuesday.

Germany’s foreign minister Guido Westerwelle told reporters in Berlin that the embassy building was “partially in flames but fortunately … the employees are safe”.

He added: “I demand from the Sudanese authorities that the safety of the German embassy will be guaranteed immediately and I condemn this anti-Islamic hate video, but still this can’t be used as justification for the outbreak of violence – this violence must stop immediately.”

In Kashmir, thousands of Muslims burned US flags and called president Barack Obama a “terrorist”, while the top government cleric reportedly demanded Americans leave the volatile Indian-controlled region immediately.

Authorities asked the Indian government to block online clips from the film, the region’s top police official Ashok Prasad said, but at least 15,000 people took part in more than two dozen protests, chanting “Down with America” and “Down with Israel”.

“The US citizens visiting Kashmir should leave immediately as the sentiments of the Muslims have been hurt by these pictures,” Mufti Bashiruddin Ahmad, Kashmir’s state-appointed cleric, was quoted as saying.

US Embassy officials sent out a message reiterating its call for citizens to stay away from Kashmir, a volatile territory where many oppose India’s rule. Police said they were investigating the cleric’s statement.

Though many local separatists groups disavowed the threat to Americans, local authorities put five top separatist leaders under house arrest, a common action when protests or violence is expected.

Jamat-e-Islami, Kashmir’s biggest Islamic party, demanded the US government act against the film-makers.

“If America is true in its claim of being against any kind of religious blasphemy, then it should lose no time in taking stern action against these enemies of humanity,” the party’s statement said.

In the southern Indian city of Chennai, protesters threw stones at the US consulate, shattering some windows and burning an Obama effigy. Police quickly cleared the area, arresting more than 100 protesters.

In Bangladesh, about 5,000 hardline Muslims marched in Dhaka’s streets after prayers, burning US and Israeli flags and calling for the death of the film-maker. Police prevented them from marching toward the US Embassy several miles away.

In Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, about 200 protesters chanted slogans and held up signs in a largely peaceful protest outside the heavily guarded US embassy in Jakarta.

American diplomatic outposts increased security worldwide this week after clips of the film went viral online and sparked the protests.

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