JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Hundreds of Muslims protesting caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad tried to storm the U.S. Embassy on Sunday, smashing the windows of a guard post but failing to push through the gates. Several people were injured.
Pakistani security forces, meanwhile, sealed off the capital of Islamabad to block a planned mass demonstration and fired tear gas and gunshots to chase off protesters. In Turkey, tens of thousands gathered in Istanbul chanting slogans against Denmark, Israel and the United States.
Protests over the cartoons, which first appeared in a Danish newspaper in September and have been republished in other European publications and elsewhere, have swept across the Muslim world, growing into mass outlets for rage against the West in general, and Israel and the United States in particular. (Related: Saudi papers print Danish editor’s apology)
Christians also have become targets. Pakistani Muslims protesting in the southern city of Sukkur ransacked and burned a church Sunday after hearing accusations that a Christian man had burned pages of the Quran, Islam’s holy book.
That incident came a day after Muslims protesting in the Nigerian city of Maiduguri attacked Christians and burned 15 churches in a three-hour rampage that killed at least 15 people. Some 30 other people have died during protests over the cartoons that erupted about three weeks ago.
In Jakarta, about 400 people marched to the heavily fortified U.S. mission in the center of the city, behind a banner reading “We are ready to attack the enemies of the Prophet.”
Protesters throwing stones and brandishing wooden staves tried to break through the gates. They set fire to U.S. flags and a poster of President Bush and smashed the windows of a guard outpost before dispersing after a few minutes.
The U.S. Embassy called the attacks deplorable, describing them as acts of “thuggery.”
A protest organizer said the West, and particularly the United States, is attacking Islam.
“They want to destroy Islam through the issue of terrorism … and all those things are engineered by the United States,” said Maksuni, who only uses one name.
“We are fighting America fiercely this time,” he said. “And we also are fighting Denmark.”
In Pakistan, where protests last week left five people dead, police put up roadblocks around Islamabad to keep people from entering the capital for a planned mass protest called by a coalition of six hard-line Islamic parties, the Mutahida Majlis-e-Amal — United Action Forum.
Authorities also detained several lawmakers and Islamic leaders during raids in three cities and announced they would arrest anyone joining a gathering of more than five people to prevent the demonstration.
Opposition leader Maulana Fazlur Rahman, a senior figure in the Islamic coalition, was eventually given permission to lead a small rally through a square in the city center. The protesters chanted “God is great!” and “Any friend of America is a traitor.”
But when about 100 other protesters tried to reach the square, officers fired tear gas and at least one gunshot to chase them off. More gunshots were heard later in the city, but it wasn’t clear who fired them. At least two policemen were injured, one bleeding from the head. Several demonstrators also were hurt.
A crowd of 700 people, some throwing stones at police, tried to march toward Islamabad’s heavily guarded diplomatic enclave about 1.3 miles from the square but with blocked by troops in armored personnel carriers.
Police also blocked about 1,500 protesters from reaching Islamabad from the city of Peshawar by putting shipping containers and sandbags on a bridge along a highway leading to the capital, said Mohammed Iqbal, a key member of the religious alliance.
Elsewhere in Pakistan, about 600 people staged a protest in Chaman, a town near the Afghan border, burning Danish flags and an effigy of the Danish prime minister.
Such protests prompted Denmark on Sunday to temporarily recall its ambassador to Pakistan, Bent Wigotski, because it was impossible for him “to perform his job duties during the present circumstances,” the Danish Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
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