Hezbollah Warns US Over Film as Protests Spread
Hezbollah’s Hassan Nasrallah warned Monday of “very dangerous” global repercussions if an anti-Islam film is released in its entirety, as the death toll from a week of violence sparked by the movie rose to 19.
An eruption of Muslim anger over a trailer of the American-made film that appeared on the Internet has spread across the world, taking hold on Monday in Afghanistan, Indonesia, the West Bank, the Philippines and Yemen.
Tens of thousands of demonstrators poured into the streets of southern Beirut to denounce the film at Nasrallah’s request, and the head of the powerful Shiite Muslim group surprised supporters by making a rare public appearance.
“O Prophet, we die for you, my soul and my blood are for you,” he said, urging the crowd to repeat the words after him for the whole world to hear.
Nasrallah, whose Lebanese movement is blacklisted in the United States as a terrorist group, has called for a week of protests across the country over the film, describing it as the “worst attack ever on Islam.”
“America must understand… the US must understand that releasing the entire film will have dangerous, very dangerous, repercussions around the world,” he told Monday’s rally.
“All our people and governments must put pressure on the international community to issue international and national laws to criminalise insults of the three world religions,” he said, referring to Christianity, Islam and Judaism.
“America, great Satan! Israel, enemy of the Muslims!” cried men, women and children in Beirut.
The movie entitled “Innocence of Muslims”, believed to have been produced by a small group of extremist Christians, has sparked a week of furious protests outside US embassies and other American symbols in at least 20 countries.
In Pakistan, thousands of students burned US flags and chanted anti-American slogans in the northwestern city of Peshawar, where Osama bin Laden kept a home during the 1980s jihad against Soviet troops in adjacent Afghanistan.
In the nearby district of Upper Dir, a protester was killed and two others wounded in a shootout with police. The crowd of about 800 people set fire to a magistrate’s house and the local press club.
In Karachi, Pakistan’s biggest city, another demonstrator died after being shot in the head during clashes with police near the US consulate on Sunday.
Up to 3,000 university students, teachers and employees marched in Peshawar chanting anti-US slogans, while around 500 protesters tried to reach the US consulate in Lahore but were driven back by police with tear gas.
The US embassy in Islamabad was closed on Monday because of the risk of demonstrations and diplomats have been banned from all but essential travel throughout the country.
Blocks on Internet, YouTube access
In neighboring Afghanistan, protests turned violent for the first time when more than 1,000 people protested in Kabul, setting police cars and containers ablaze, police told AFP.
Between 40 and 50 policemen were “very slightly wounded” by stone-throwers and members of the crowd waving sticks, said Kabul police chief Mohammad Ayoub Salangi.
A police official, who gave his name only as Hafiz, said protesters also threw stones at Camp Phoenix, a US-run military base in the capital, but were later driven back.
Google has barred access to the video in Egypt, India, Indonesia, Libya and Malaysia, while the government has restricted access to Google-owned YouTube in Afghanistan.
Later, Pakistan blocked access to YouTube after an order from Prime Minister Pervez Ashraf to do so over blasphemous material, following the video-sharing website’s failure to take down the anti-Islam film.
Attempts to access YouTube met with a message saying the website had been classed as containing “indecent material.”
In Jakarta, protesters hurled petrol bombs and clashed with Indonesian police outside the US embassy shouting “America, America go to hell”, as demonstrations in the world’s most populous Muslim nation turned violent.
Police were seen kicking or dragging away some of the protesters, while one policeman was taken away in an ambulance with his face bleeding.
Many of the protesters were supporters of hard-line Islamic groups and were dressed in identical white Muslim garb.
The capital’s police chief Untung Rajab said 11 policemen and a protester were injured and taken to hospital, and that four protesters were arrested.
At the weekend, President Barack Obama called top US diplomats in Libya, Tunisia, Yemen and Sudan to assure them their safety is a top priority, the White House said.
Mass demonstrations after the main weekly Muslim prayers on Friday saw 11 protesters killed as police battled to defend US missions from mobs in Egypt, Lebanon, Sudan, Tunisia and Yemen.
The unrest began in Cairo, where protesters stormed the US embassy late Tuesday, replacing the Stars and Strips with an Islamic flag.
Hours later it spread to the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi, where the US consulate came under sustained attack, killing four Americans, including ambassador Chris Stevens.
In Afghanistan, two US Marines died and six US fighter jets were destroyed when Taliban fighters on Friday stormed a giant airfield to avenge the film.
The United States has deployed counter-terror Marine units to Libya to protect its embassy in Tripoli and stationed two destroyers off the North African coast.
A Marine unit was also dispatched to protect the US embassy in Yemen, where police shot dead four protesters and wounded 34 others on Thursday as a mob breached its perimeter. There were more protests in Yemen on Monday.
The United States has evacuated all non-essential staff and family members from Sudan and Tunisia and warned US citizens against travel to the two countries.
Libya said it has arrested 50 suspects in connection with the consulate attack and replaced its security chiefs in Benghazi region over the deadly violence.
And the Russian prosecutor general’s office on Monday backed a ban on the anti-Islam film, saying it would seek to add it to a list of extremist material, Interfax reported.