Violent Film Protest Erupts in Kabul


Hundreds of Afghans took to the streets of Kabul Monday, hurling stones at a US base, torching cars and shouting "Death to America" in the latest eruption of Muslim anger over an American film mocking the Prophet Mohammed.

The demonstration took place near NATO and US military bases after the head of Hezbollah, a Lebanese movement blacklisted in the United States as a terrorist group, called for a week of protests and symbols of US influence were targeted by angry Muslims across the world.

Police said more than 1,000 Afghans protested, setting police cars and commercial storage containers ablaze on Jalalabad Road, Kabul police chief Mohammad Ayoub Salangi told AFP.

Between 40 to 50 policemen were "very slightly wounded" by stone throwers and members of the crowd waving sticks, said Salangi, who added that he had also been grazed by a stone.

Burning tyres sent thick black smoke streaming into the sky and large stones littered the road as shopkeepers hurriedly locked up and ran away.

A police official, who gave his name only as Hafiz, said protesters also threw stones at Camp Phoenix, a US-run military base in the area, but were later driven back by police towards a nearby market.

A low-budget trailer for a movie entitled "Innocence of Muslims", believed to have been produced by a small group of extremist Christians in the United States, has sparked furious anti-American protests across the Islamic world.

Thousands of students Monday burned US flags and chanted anti-American slogans in the northwest Pakistani city of Peshawar, where Osama bin Laden kept a home during the 1980s jihad against Soviet troops in adjacent Afghanistan.

In Karachi, Pakistan's largest city, eight people were injured when protesters clashed with police outside the US consulate on Sunday and police stepped up security.

Following complaints, Google is barring access to the video in Egypt, India, Indonesia, Libya and now Malaysia, while the government has restricted access to Google-owned YouTube in Afghanistan.

Hezbollah's Nasrallah described the film as "the worst attack ever on Islam" -- worse than "The Satanic Verses" by British author Salman Rushdie, who has been under an Iranian fatwa calling for his murder since 1989.

The head of the powerful Shiite Muslim group called on people across the Islamic world to protest, in a televised speech broadcast just hours after Pope Benedict XVI ended a historic three-day visit to Lebanon.

"The whole world needs to see your anger on your faces, in your fists and your shouts," Nasrallah said, noting that he had postponed his call until after the pope's departure.

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has also demanded more violence against US diplomatic missions in the Middle East and Africa, and attacks on US interests in the West.

There has been a week of angry and often violent protests outside US embassies and other American symbols, ranging from schools to fast food outlets, in at least 20 countries, with at least 17 people killed and dozens wounded in violence linked to the film.

In Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation, some 700 protesters outside the US embassy in Jakarta on Monday hurled petrol bombs at riot police, who responded with bursts of water cannon, tear gas and warning shots.

The unrest first began in Cairo, where protesters stormed the US embassy late Tuesday, replacing the Stars and Stripes with an Islamic banner.

Hours later, the US consulate in Libya's eastern city of Benghazi came under sustained attack. Four Americans, including ambassador Chris Stevens, were killed in the assault.

Mass demonstrations after the main weekly Muslim prayers on Friday saw 11 protesters killed as police battled to defend US missions from mobs in Egypt, Lebanon, Sudan, Tunisia and Yemen.

Libya's parliament chief says 50 suspects have been arrested over the killing of the Americans in Benghazi, blaming the attack on a few foreign extremists who he said entered Libya from Mali and Algeria and pre-planned it with local "affiliates and sympathisers".

The US ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, offered a different account, saying the assault began with a "spontaneous" protest over the film and that there was no evidence of pre-planning.

The United States has since deployed counter-terrorism Marine units to Libya to protect the Tripoli embassy and stationed two destroyers off the North African coast.

It has also sent a Marine unit to protect the US embassy in the Yemeni capital Sanaa, where police shot dead four protesters and wounded 34 others on Thursday as a mob breached its perimeter.

The United States has evacuated all non-essential staff and family members from Sudan and Tunisia and warned US citizens against travel to the two countries.

And in Afghanistan, two US soldiers died and six US fighter jets were destroyed when Taliban fighters on Friday stormed one of the country's largest airfields to avenge the anti-Islam film.

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