Danes are urged to leave Indonesia as protests grow

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Denmark has urged its citizens to leave Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country, as the publication of Danish cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohamed continues to arouse protests around the world.

"Concrete information indicates that an extremist group wishes to actively seek out Danes in protest for the publication of the Prophet Mohamed cartoons," the Danish foreign ministry said in a statement. The threat is greatest in eastern Java but "it is feared that it can spread to the rest of the country, including Bali", it added.

Denmark has also withdrawn its diplomatic staff from Indonesia, Iran and Syria on security grounds.

But the Indonesian Foreign Minister, Hassan Wirajuda, said yesterday that the Danish decision was "quite hasty". He said Indonesia did not have specific information about threats to Danish nationals.

Three Palestinian youths and an Israeli motorist were injured yesterday in riots that broke out after Jewish settlers spray-painted graffiti on a West Bank mosque calling the Prophet Mohamed a pig. The Hebrew letters read: "Mohamed = pig. They are all pigs."

A crowd quickly gathered in protest, which spread to two neighbouring villages. An army spokesman said that when Israeli troops arrived to investigate, the demonstrators stoned them.

The soldiers fired warning shots in the air, the spokesman said. When the stoning continued, they fired at the protesters' legs, wounding three of them. An Israeli woman was slightly injured when the Palestinians stoned her car.

The pig is considered unclean by both Muslims and Jews. In the past, Israeli extremists have thrown pigs' heads into Muslim holy sites.

On Saturday, young Muslims burnt a Danish flag outside the walls of Jerusalem's Old City. Israeli police tried to disperse the protesters with stun grenades. When the youths responded with stones, the police arrested nine of them.

In Turkey, about 150 ultra-nationalist Turks chanting "vengeance", pelted the French consulate in Istanbul with eggs. Several newspapers and magazines in Asia, Europe, the Middle East and the United States - including five French newspapers - have published the cartoons which are considered blasphemous by Muslims.

Elsewhere, the protests appeared to be abating. In Tehran, where hundreds of people had tried to set fire to the Danish embassy last week, about 60 people staged a protest outside the French embassy, setting fire to a French flag and chanting "Death to America" and "Fascist France is a servant of Zionism."

In Denmark, a poll published yesterday showed that the anti-immigration Danish People's Party, the country's third-largest political group, had benefited from the controversy by receiving an extra 3.6 points in a survey of 1,000 voters.

It was published in the Jyllands-Posten, the newspaper which published the cartoons in September.