- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 18, 2006

From combined dispatches

LONDON — The Danish cartoonist whose depiction of the prophet Muhammad with a bomb in his turban sparked worldwide furor said yesterday he does not regret his drawing or its publication.

Kurt Westergaard told the Herald newspaper in Glasgow that his inspiration for the cartoon — one of a dozen that appeared in a Danish newspaper in late September — was “terrorism.”

Mr. Westergaard, who agreed to answer questions from the newspaper in writing through an intermediary, defended the cartoons on grounds of freedom of expression and the press.

Asked by the Herald if he had anticipated the uproar that the cartoons provoked, he replied, “No, no.”

When asked if he regretted drawing the cartoon or its publication, he said, “No.”

The inspiration for the drawings was, he said, “terrorism — which gets its spiritual ammunition from Islam.”

He also defended the caricature as “a protest against the fact that we perhaps are going to have double standards as for freedom of expression and freedom of the press.”

When asked if he thought his life would ever get back to normal, Mr. Westergaard replied, “Now and then I look over my shoulder, but I trust the PET. I hope so.” He was referring to the Danish secret service.

On Friday, a Pakistani Muslim cleric and his followers offered rewards amounting to more than $1 million for anyone who killed the Danish cartoonists who drew the caricatures.

Muslims continued to riot yesterday, with mobs killing 16 persons and burning 11 churches in northern Nigeria in the country’s first violent protests over cartoons of the prophet Muhammad, police said.

Police spokesman Haz Iwendi said 15 persons were killed by rioters in the northeastern state of Borno where the churches were burned, and one person died in similar riots in the north-central state of Katsina.

Muslim riots also forced two ministers out of their jobs in Europe and the Middle East after clashes between police and protesters in Libya on Friday killed 11.

Police shot demonstrators who were attempting to storm the Italian consulate in Benghazi.

Initially resisting calls for his resignation, Italian Reforms Minister Roberto Calderoli stepped down after he was widely blamed for clashes in Libya over cartoons of the prophet that he had made into T-shirts and worn on television.

In Tripoli, the General People’s Congress fired Interior Minister Nasser al-Mabrouk Abdallah and police chiefs, saying “disproportionate force” had been used to disperse protesters.

Italian diplomats in Tripoli said Libyan authorities had told them at least 11 were dead and nearly 40 wounded.

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