Four die in Afghanistan as anti-Danish protests rage

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The Independent Online

Four people were killed and 19 injured as hundreds of Afghans clashed with police and soldiers yesterday during demonstrations against the publication of cartoons of the Prophet Mohamed.

The worst of the violence was outside Bagram, the main US base, with Afghan police firing on some 2,000 protesters as they tried to break into the facility.

Police in Mehtarlam, the eastern province of Laghman, said they opened fire after a crowd of protesters began throwing stones and knives at them, and one man shot at them.

Protesters also tried to storm the Danish embassy in Kabul. A crowd of some 200, many armed with sticks, tried to break down the gate of the compound and beat up police outside the embassy, as well as security guards at a nearby house used by Belgian diplomats.

Hundreds also demonstrated in Kandahar, where British troops are to deploy in the coming months as part of an expansion of the Nato peacekeeping force.

In Tehran last night, Iranian riot police fired tear gas at 300 demonstrators who hurled petrol bombs and stones at the Danish embassy compound after about 200 students threw stones at the Austrian mission earlier in the day.

Several trees were set on fire inside the compound. Firemen who arrived on the scene to put out the blaze were pelted with rocks and firebombs. As one exploded just above a group of firemen, a demonstrator called out: "God is great.''

The crowd burned the Danish flag to cries of: "Death to Denmark, Death to Israel, Death to Europe, Death to America.''

The crowd surged across the police cordon and made several attempts to scale the walls of the embassy. Several men could be seen trying to climb through the barbed wire that rings the top of the embassy wall, prompting the police to resort to tear gas.

In southern Iraq, Danish troops were fired on by unknown assailants, but no one was hurt.

In India, riot police used tear gas and water cannon to break up protests by Muslim students in the capital, Delhi. India has the second largest Muslim population in the world, after Indonesia. The students said their demonstration was peaceful but police said they resorted to force after students began throwing stones. In Indian-held Kashmir, the main city, Srinagar, was shut down in a one-day general strike to protest at the cartoons. Protesters burned Danish flags and threw rocks at cars that broke the strike.

In Indonesia, police fired warning shots to stop protesters ripping a plaque from the wall outside the US consulate in Surabaya, the second largest city. Hundreds of demonstrators earlier threw rocks at the Danish consulate.

In Buddhist-dominated Thailand, some 400 members of the small Muslim minority demonstrated outside the Danish embassy in Bangkok, and stamped on the Danish flag.

Muslims in the Gulf region intensified their boycott of Danish goods as the uproar raged on unabated. Some moderate clerics and regional trade groups also urged Muslims to use this economic weapon to punish other European nations whose dailies printed the inflammatory caricatures.

Chechnya's pro-Moscow government banned Danish humanitarian organisations from the shattered region. Ramzan Kadyrov, Chechnya's acting prime minister, was the latest Muslim leader to condemn the cartoons.

Protesters set fire to Danish diplomatic missions in Lebanon and Syria at the weekend and demonstrators threw stones at EU offices in the Gaza Strip and pulled down the flag.

The killing at the weekend of a Catholic priest, an Italian, at his church in Trabzon on Turkey's Black Sea coast, saw Italian newspapers claim he was the first European victim of the cartoon controversy.