NATO troops fire on Afghan attackers - East Valley Tribune: Nation / World

NATO troops fire on Afghan attackers

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Posted: Tuesday, February 7, 2006 6:05 am | Updated: 2:37 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

KABUL, Afghanistan - NATO peacekeepers exchanged fire with protesters who attacked their base Tuesday in the second straight day of violent demonstrations in Afghanistan over the publication of caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad, Afghan officials said. One demonstrator was killed and dozens wounded.

In neighboring Pakistan, 5,000 people chanting "Hang the man who insulted the prophet" burned effigies of one cartoonist and Denmark's prime minister. And a prominent Iranian newspaper said it was going to hold a competition for cartoons on the Holocaust in reaction to European newspapers publishing the prophet drawings.

Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said the West's publication of the Prophet Muhammad cartoons was an Israeli conspiracy motivated by anger over the victory of the militant Hamas group in the Palestinian elections last month. "The West condemns any denial of the Jewish holocaust, but it permits the insult of Islamic sanctities," Khamenei said.

The NATO troops, most of them Norwegian, fired on hundreds of protesters outside the base in Maymana after the demonstrators shot at them and threw grenades, said provincial Gov. Mohammed Latif. The protesters also burned an armored vehicle, a U.N. car and guard posts, prompting NATO peacekeepers to rush British reinforcements to the city.

Maymana Hospital said one protester was shot dead and six were wounded, while some 50 others were hurt by tear gas the peacekeepers used to disperse the demonstrators.

One Norwegian soldier was injured by a splinter from a grenade, while another was hurt by a flying rock. Two Finnish soldiers were also hurt, Sverre Diesen, the Norwegian military commander, told reporters in Oslo.

Diesen said two American A-10 attack aircraft were on their way to the city and that a German C-130 transport plane was on standby in case some troops needed to evacuated.

U.N. spokesman Adrian Edwards said the world body's nonessential staff in Maymana were being driven from the city to an undisclosed location for security reasons.

The cartoons were first published by a Danish newspaper in September, then reprinted by a Norwegian newspaper last month, setting off violent protests against the two countries across the Muslim world. The cartoons have subsequently been reprinted in other media, mostly in Europe.

The drawings - including one depicting the prophet wearing a turban shaped as a bomb - have touched a raw nerve in part because Islam is interpreted to forbid any illustrations of the Prophet Muhammad for fear they could lead to idolatry.

In the Afghan capital of Kabul, police used batons to beat stone-throwing protesters outside the Danish diplomatic mission office and near the offices of the World Bank on Tuesday. An Associated Press reporter saw police arrest several people, many of whom were injured.

Security had already been tightened in Kabul, home to some 3,000 foreign diplomats, aid workers and others. Police have set up barricades and peacekeepers have been on constant patrol.

More than 3,000 protesters threw stones at government buildings and an Italian peacekeeping base in the western city of Herat, but no one was injured, said a witness, Faridoon Pooyaa. Provincial administrator Asiluddin Jami said police fired warning shots to prevent the demonstrators from entering the buildings and the base.

About 5,000 people clashed with police in Pulikhumri town, north of Kabul, said Sayed Afandi, a police commander. There were no reports of injuries.

Police in about half a dozen other towns and cities across Afghanistan reported thousands of people protesting.

Demonstrations have been held across Afghanistan since last week, with the size of the crowds progressively swelling. On Monday, four people were killed and at least 19 hurt during clashes, including one outside Bagram, the main U.S. military base.

The protest in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar was the largest to date in that Muslim country against the prophet drawings. There were no reports of violence.

Chief Minister Akram Durrani, the province's top elected official who led the rally, demanded the cartoonists "be punished like a terrorist."

"Islam is a religion of peace. It insists that all other religions and faiths should be respected," he told the crowd. "Nobody has the right to insult Islam and hurt the feelings of Muslims."

The Iranian newspaper Hamshahri invited foreign cartoonists to enter its Holocaust cartoon competition, which it said would be launched on Feb. 13. The newspaper is owned by the Tehran Municipality, which is dominated by allies of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is well known for his opposition to Israel.

Last year, Ahmadinejad provoked outcries when he said on separate occasions that Israel should be "wiped off the map" and the Holocaust was a "myth."

Elsewhere, China criticized newspapers for publishing the cartoons and appealed for calm among outraged Muslims. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan said publishing the cartoons "runs counter to the principle that different religions and civilizations should respect each other and live together in peace and harmony."

Danish citizens were also advised to leave Indonesia, where rowdy protests were held in at least four cities Tuesday. Danish missions, which have been repeatedly targeted by protesters, have been shut because of security concerns, said Niels Erik Anderson, the country's ambassador to Indonesia.

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said his government had temporarily closed diplomatic missions in Palestinian territories - where it shares a building with the Danish mission. He warned his citizens to be wary if traveling to the Middle East.

Media in both Australia and New Zealand have also published the images.

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