Violence spreads over Prophet cartoons

Afghan police fired on an angry crowd trying to break into a sprawling U.S. military base Monday as protests against the publication of caricatures of the prophet Muhammad by Western newspapers spread across the nation.
Two protesters were killed, along with at least three other Afghans who died in a separate protest Monday, despite calls for calm from President Hamid Karzai.

This morning, a bomb exploded outside a police station in Kandahar, an aide to the police chief said. Wire services said at least a dozen people were killed. There was no known link to the caricature protests.


Elsewhere, Iranian police used tear gas to disperse protesters attacking the Danish and Austrian embassies in Tehran, and stampeding demonstrators killed a teenage boy in Somalia, according to Associated Press. Protests also erupted in Iraq, India, Indonesia and the Philippines. Denmark urged its citizens to leave Indonesia, Associated Press said.


The Afghanistan protests were the first aimed at an American target. Only one U.S. newspaper published the disputed cartoons, which appeared in a Danish publication in September, and were reprinted recently in other European newspapers.


Police outside the main U.S. base at Bagram, north of Kabul, the capital, opened fire around 4 p.m. Monday when about 2,000 protesters surged toward the heavily guarded gates, District Commissioner Kabir Ahmad said by phone from Bagram.


Five other demonstrators and eight police were injured in the clash, which did not involve U.S. troops, Ahmad said.


The demonstrators "got close to the Americans, and they burned the vehicles of a private company that was supplying food for the U.S. military in Bagram," Ahmad said.


Similar protests turned violent in Syria and Lebanon over the weekend. On Saturday in Damascus, the Syrian capital, demonstrators burned the Danish and Norwegian embassies, and in Beirut on Sunday, protesters set the Danish Consulate ablaze before rampaging through a Christian neighborhood.
The Bush administration Monday accused the Syrian government of playing a role in the Damascus attacks and urged leaders of other Arab countries, especially Saudi Arabia, to help ease tensions.


David Welch, an assistant secretary of State, summoned the Syrian ambassador "to express our strong protest and condemnation" at the damage to the embassies in Damascus, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said.
"Syria is a country where protests don't just occur spontaneously, certainly not of this sort, and not without the knowledge and support of the government," McCormack said, reports the AP.

I.L.