Five killed protesting Muhammad cartoons in Afghanistan as furor goes global

[JURIST] At least five people protesting the publication of caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad [JURIST news archive] in Danish and other European papers were killed in Afghanistan Monday when security forces and police opened fire on demonstrators as the cartoons furor setting blasphemy against free speech reached global proportions. Two Afghans were killed outside the US airbase at Bagram when a crowd converged there. Three others died in disturbances in Afghanistan's Laghman province, where demonstrators shouted "death to Denmark". About 200 protestors also gathered outside the Danish embassy in Kabul. Afghan President Hamid Karzai had already condemned the cartoons, but had called for Muslims to forgive their publication [Zeenews report] and "not make it an issue of dispute between religions or cultures". In May 2005, 15 Afghan demonstrators were killed [JURIST report] in similar religiously-motivated protests after Newsweek magazine wrongly reported that the Koran had been desecrated in incidents at the US detention center at Guantanamo Bay.

Meanwhile the cartoons controversy escalated elsewhere Monday:

  • protestors in Tehran, Iran, threw petrol bombs and rocks at the Danish embassy building there, and also attacked the Austrian embassy [AP report]. The Iranian government announced it would boycott Danish goods [IRNA report];

  • 4000 protesters in the southern Iraqi city of Kut took to the streets demanding Iraq cut ties with countries associated with the cartoon publications, and calling on Denmark to withdraw its contingent of troops from Iraq. In Kurnah, shots were fired at a Danish patrol [Mainichi report];

  • demonstrators gathered outside Danish diplomatic missions in Indonesia and Thailand [press release], chanting slogans and burning Danish flags;

  • in the predominantly-Muslim East African state of Somalia, a teenage boy was trampled to death [Mail & Guardian report] when police fired into the air to disperse protestors in the port city of Bosaso who turned on UN and international aid agency buildings;

  • in New Delhi, India, police fired tear gas and water cannons [IANS report] to disperse hundreds of demonstrating university students;

  • Norway said it would demand compensation from Syria [NRK report] after its embassy in Damascus was set on fire on Saturday. The Danish government Sunday reserved [press release] "the right to take all steps vis-à-vis the Syrian Government" in respect of the burning of its own Damascus embassy the same day;

  • Lebanon apologized to Denmark [Ya Libnan report] for the Sunday burning of its embassy [JURIST report] in Beirut, while the European Union officially reminded 18 Muslim countries of their legal obligations to protect foreign embassies under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations;

  • the prime ministers of Turkey and Spain published an open letter [IHT op-ed] appealing for calm, but Turkey's foreign minister warned that press freedoms had limits and that Muslims should not be treated in the same way Jews have historically been treated and caricatured in the West;

  • British MPs called for the arrest of Muslim protestors [UPI report] who over the weekend had marched in London waving placards with slogans like "Behead those who insult Islam" and threatening a repeat of the July 7 London bombings, saying they were inciting people to violence. Downing Street later issued a statement saying the "police should have our full support in any actions they may wish to take in respect of any breaches of the law";

  • Muslim leaders in Australia called on the Brisbane Courier-Mail to apologize for reprinting one of the Danish cartoons in its Saturday edition;

  • in the US a small group of Muslim protestors gathered outside the offices of the Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper to protest its republication [Philadelphia Inquirer report] of the Muhammad cartoons over the weekend.
Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Moller has called the crisis "a matter of global concern and a matter that demands collective efforts and swift action" and has appealed to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan for assistance, saying "it is now a case which is much bigger than the issue of the drawings". Read his full press statement. BBC News has more.

 

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