- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 7, 2006

From combined dispatches

KABUL, Afghanistan — International peacekeepers clashed yesterday with Afghans protesting drawings of the prophet Muhammad, leaving three demonstrators dead and prompting NATO to send reinforcements to a remote northern city.

Senior Afghan officials said al Qaeda and the Taliban could be exploiting anger over the cartoons to incite violence, which spread to at least six cities in a second day of bloody unrest in Afghanistan.

Demonstrations rumbled on around the Muslim world, and the political repercussions deepened, with Iran suspending all trade and economic ties with Denmark, where the drawings were first published.

In a new turn, a prominent Iranian newspaper, Hamshahri, invited artists to enter a Holocaust cartoon competition, saying it wanted to see if freedom of expression — the banner under which many Western publications reprinted the prophet drawings — also applied to Holocaust images.

In Belgium, a radical Muslim group put on its Web site a cartoon of Adolf Hitler in bed with Anne Frank, a Jewish girl who wrote a wartime diary of hiding from Nazi persecution.

The Danish cartoons — including one depicting the prophet wearing a turban shaped as a bomb — touched a nerve among Muslims. Islam is interpreted to forbid any illustrations of Muhammad for fear they could lead to idolatry.

Violence has escalated sharply in Afghanistan this week, and seven persons have died in demonstrations during the past two days.

Yesterday, protesters armed with assault rifles and grenades attacked the NATO base in the northern city of Maimana, which is manned by peacekeepers from Norway, Finland, Latvia and Sweden, local officials said.

Sayed Aslam Ziaratia, the provincial deputy police chief, said three protesters were fatally shot by Afghan and Norwegian forces and that 22 others were wounded.

NATO sent 150 British troops to help secure the base, and two American A-10 attack aircraft were flown to the city. The United Nations evacuated nonessential staff.

On Monday, about 2,000 protesters tried to storm the main U.S. military base at Bagram, the hub of the operations for some 20,000 American forces in the country. Police fatally shot two protesters.

Yesterday saw the biggest protest yet in Pakistan, where 5,000 people chanted, “Hang the man who insulted the prophet,” and burned effigies of one cartoonist and Denmark’s prime minister.

Thousands of Egyptians and Jordanians also demonstrated peacefully, calling for a boycott of Danish products and the cutting of ties with Copenhagen.

In Washington, President Bush called Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen to express “our solidarity and support.” A Danish newspaper first printed the cartoons of Muhammad in September, and they were published this month by other European papers, setting off a new round of protests.

The two leaders agreed that all sides must move forward “through dialogue and tolerance, not violence,” White House spokesman Scott McClellan said.

In Copenhagen, Mr. Fogh Rasmussen called the protests “a growing global crisis.”

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