- The Washington Times - Friday, February 10, 2006

CAIRO — Thousands of worshippers emerging from Friday prayers demonstrated against drawings of the prophet Muhammad in the Mideast, Asia and Africa, clashing with police in some cities despite religious leaders’ attempts to keep marches peaceful.

In Kenya, police shot and wounded one person among about 200 demonstrators trying to march to the residence of Denmark’s ambassador.

About 60 protesters in the Iranian capital, Tehran, threw firebombs at the French Embassy, shattering nearly every window on its street facade, even after a cleric at a prominent Iranian mosque urged people not to attack diplomatic missions.

“Down. Down with France. Down. Down with Israel,” the crowd chanted. One firebomb exploded in the embassy and started a small blaze that was quickly extinguished.

The caricatures, one of which showed Muhammad with a bomb-shaped turban, were published first in a Danish paper in September, then reprinted in European papers in recent weeks in the name of press freedom.

Arab governments, Muslim clerics and newspaper columnists have been urging calm, fearing that recent weeks of violence have only increased anti-Islamic sentiment in the West.

Eleven persons have been killed in the protests, all of them during three days of riots this week in Afghanistan. A 12th person died yesterday in Nairobi, the Kenyan capital, when he was hit by an ambulance rushing away the wounded protester.

Denmark’s ambassador to Syria announced yesterday he was leaving with his colleagues because the government was offering an “unacceptably low level” of protection following recent violent demonstrations.

In France, an umbrella group of Muslim organizations announced it was suing a French weekly which recently reprinted the cartoons and ran one of its own. The group, representing the country’s 5 million Muslims, said it had unanimously voted to take the magazine Charlie Hebdo to court.

Protests appeared to ease in the Mideast in recent days, though the caricatures were brought up in Iran, Lebanon and Iraq as Shi’ite Muslims marked their holy day of Ashura.

But Friday prayers — a frequent launching ground for political demonstrations — brought a new wave of protests in Egypt, Jordan, the Palestinian territories and Morocco.

Egypt saw its most widespread protests yet, with thousands protesting in 21 of its 26 provinces, including in Cairo and the second-largest city, Alexandria.

Protests by Palestinians were smaller than in recent days, but vehement. Gunmen fired in the air as thousands marched in Gaza, while about 2,000 women, young boys and older men marched around the Dome of the Rock shrine in Jerusalem, chanting “Bin Laden, strike again” and burning a Danish flag.

In Pakistan, rallies erupted around the country after prayers with some protesters burning foreign-made cheese and breaking windows while others clashed with police.

Thousands also demonstrated in Malaysia, Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka, although Syria and Lebanon, the scenes of earlier violence, were calm yesterday.

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