Philippine protesters burn US and British flags in support of Bin Laden

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The Independent Online

Several hundred Muslims burned US. and British flags to protest the bombing of Afghanistan, and some expressed readiness to fight for al–Qaida chief Osama bin Laden.

Some Muslim traders closed shops and stores in support of the anti–U.S. protest in the southern city of Iligan.

Leftist and Muslim groups have staged a series of noisy but peaceful protests in Manila and a few cities in the southern region of Mindanao, home to the country's Muslim minority. The predominantly Roman Catholic Philippines is fighting Muslim extremists in the south.

"I will go to Afghanistan if I'm needed. I will leave my wife and five children to Allah who will find food for them," said Haron Ali. The 35–year–old shoemaker signed a list of Muslims in Mindanao volunteering to fight to defend bin Laden, the wealthy Saudi exile accused of masterminding the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States.

One placard read, "Jihad (holy war) is the answer to US terrorism."

Soldiers and riot police stood by, some behind an armored car.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has said she fully supports the U.S.–led campaign on terrorism and has allowed U.S. aircraft to use Philippine ports and air space.