Islamic militants threaten to hunt down foreigners

War on terrorism: World reaction
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The Independent US

Muslims around the world reacted angrily to the US attacks on Afghanistan, taking to the streets and burning American flags.

Muslims around the world reacted angrily to the US attacks on Afghanistan, taking to the streets and burning American flags.

Islamic militants in Indonesia, which has the world's largest Muslim population, threatened to hunt down foreigners and attack Western targets. The capital, Jakarta, was tense yesterday, with 50 armoured vehicles backed by hundreds of armed riot police stationed in the main square that separates the US embassy and the presidential palace.

Some 200 students demonstrated outside the embassy before marching to an office of the United Nations, where they burned an American flag. The US and British embassies, and those of other Western nations, warned their nationals to stay off the streets.

One small but radical Muslim group, the Islamic Defenders Front, threatened a holy war, describing Americans as "terrorists that must be driven from the face of the earth".

The Indonesian Foreign Minister, Hassan Wirajuda, said the government was following the action against Afghanistan "with deep concern".

In Kashmir, at least two dozen people were injured in demonstrations by hundreds of people against the US strikes.

Leaders of Kashmir's main separatist alliance denounced the raids against the Taliban. "The attack on New York and Washington was an act of terrorism. Similarly, the attack on Afghanistan is also an act of terrorism," said Syed Ali Shah Geelani, a leader of the religious party Jamat-e-Islami.

In the Philippines, about 30 left-wing activists burned pictures of the US President, George Bush, in a protest in front of the American embassy. The Philippines government expressed support for the strikes, but placed its troops on alert for reprisals by Abu Sayyaf rebels, which is said to be linked to Osama bin Laden.

Mahathir Mohamad, the Prime Minister of Malaysia, which is mostly Muslim, was critical of the US action and said that conventional warfare could not overcome terrorism and "can only result in innocent people becoming victims".

He said: "If they wanted to take action, they should pick the right people. I would support them if they wanted to take action against Israel, because Israel has shot dead many Palestinians."

In the Middle East, there was predictable condemnations from Iran and Iraq. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Iranian supreme religious leader, claimed that America's "real objective was domination and expansionism". Iran's Foreign Minister, Kamal Kharrazi, expressed concern that the "vast" military operation against Afghanistan "will not eliminate terrorism, but could expand it further".

In Iraq, Babel, the newspaper owned by Saddam Hussein's son Uday, said: "US aggression is one form of organised terrorism. The United States and its allies will fail as they did in Vietnam, Somalia and in their aggression and sanctions on Iraq."

Moderate governments in the Middle East remained muted, while their people denounced the US strikes.

At Zagazig University, north of Cairo, students chanted: "Our rulers, why are you silent? Have you got orders from America?" Egypt is among the Arab governments that has supported the US campaign.

Elsewhere, governments welcomed the strikes as regrettable but necessary.

The Australian Prime Minister, John Howard described the action as "retaliation against people who, according to the canons of any of the world's great religions, cannot call themselves people of God".

The Japanese Prime Minister, Junichiro Koizumi, who is in Beijing for an official visit, said: "Our country strongly supports these actions to combat terrorism." Japan, which is America's most important ally in Asia, has ordered security at key strategic installations to be tightened.