KABUL (Reuters) – Some 5,000 Afghans chanted “death to Denmark” and “death to the Netherlands” in Kabul on Friday, protesting against the reprinting of a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammad in Danish newspapers and a Dutch film on the Koran.
Sporadic demonstrations have sprung up across the deeply conservative country in recent weeks against the cartoons and the film with protesters demanding Danish and Dutch troops be withdrawn from Afghanistan and their embassies shut down.
Protesters gathered around a mosque in the west of the Afghan capital after Friday prayers chanting “death to Denmark,” “death to the Netherlands, “death to America” and “death to Jews.”
Demonstrators burned Danish and Dutch flags and also an effigy of Dutch right-wing politician Geert Wilders, who is due to release a film thought to be critical of the Koran later this month. Wilders has given few details of the film, but in the past he has called Islam’s holy text a “fascist” book that “incites violence.”
One unidentified speaker addressing the angry crowd through a megaphone from the back of a truck said the Afghan government should expel Danish and Dutch troops and close their embassies within two days or “we will take action.”
The Netherlands has some 1,650 troops, mainly in southern Afghanistan and 14 Dutch soldiers have been killed fighting Taliban militants. Denmark, meanwhile, has 550 troops in northern and southern Afghanistan and 11 of its soldiers have been killed.
Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden this week warned that Europe would be punished for the cartoons, first published by a Danish paper in September 2005. The images ignited violent protests across the world, including in Afghanistan, when newspapers around the world reprinted them the following year.
Many Muslims consider any depiction of the Prophet as offensive.
Resentment is growing against the presence of more than 50,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan.
Many Afghan are frustrated at poor security and the slow pace of development more than six years after U.S.-led and Afghan forces toppled the Taliban after the hardline Islamist movement refused to hand over bin Laden in the wake of the September 11 attacks on the United States.
(Writing by Jon Hemming; Editing by Alex Richardson)