- The Washington Times - Friday, February 17, 2006

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — A Pakistani cleric announced a $1 million bounty for killing a cartoonist who drew the prophet Muhammad. In Libya, a demonstration against the caricatures left the Italian consulate ablaze and at least nine persons dead, according to an Italian diplomat.

Denmark, where a newspaper first published the cartoons, temporarily closed its embassy in Pakistan and advised its citizens to leave the country.

Pakistan recalled its ambassador to Denmark for “consultations” about the cartoons.

An Italian consular official, Antonio Simoes-Concalves, said nine protesters had been killed in the demonstration in the Libyan city of Bengazi as armed police fired bullets and tear gas on a crowd of more than 1,000 people.

Libyan security officials said 11 persons had been killed or wounded, but gave no breakdown.

“They are still continually firing,” he said late yesterday, speaking by telephone from inside the consulate where he was holed up. “They haven’t managed to block them.”

The Italian Foreign Ministry confirmed that the first floor of the consulate had been set on fire after the crowd charged into the grounds late yesterday.

Libyan state television showed firefighters trying to put out the blaze, ambulances taking casualties away and five cars that were severely damaged in the riot.

Security officials said the demonstrators hurled stones and bottles at the consulate, and later entered the grounds and set fire to the building and a consular car.

No Italians inside the compound were injured, the Italian Foreign Ministry said.

In Pakistan, cleric Mohammed Yousaf Qureshi, who led Friday prayers, announced the bounty for killing a cartoonist to about 1,000 people outside the historic Mohabat Khan mosque in the northwestern city of Peshawar.

He said the mosque and the Jamia Ashrafia religious school he leads would give a $25,000 reward and a car for killing the cartoonist who drew the prophet caricatures — considered blasphemous by some Muslims.

He said a local jewelers’ association would also give $1 million, but no representative of the association was available to confirm the offer.

Mr. Qureshi did not name any cartoonist in his announcement and he did not appear aware that 12 different persons had drawn the pictures.

A Danish newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, first printed the Muhammad drawings in September. The newspaper has since apologized to Muslims for the cartoons, one of which shows Muhammad wearing a bomb-shaped turban.

A spokesman for the Jyllands-Posten said the newspaper did not want to comment on the bounty offer. But Mogens Blicher Bjerregaard, president of the Danish Journalist Union and spokesman for the cartoonists, condemned it.

“It is totally absurd what is happening. The cartoonists just did their job and they did nothing illegal,” he said.

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