Anti-US protests spread to Asia
Updated: 2012-09-18 08:02
KABUL - Protesters enraged by a film mocking the Prophet Mohammad battled with police in several Asian cities on Monday and vented their fury against the United States, blaming it for what they see as an attack on the Muslim religion.
Muslim demonstrators hold placards during an anti-US protest against a film they consider blasphemous to Islam, in the southern Indian city of Chennai September 17, 2012. [Photo/Agencies]
Police fired in the air to break up a crowd marching on the US consulate in the Pakistani city of Karachi while in Afghanistan and Indonesia people burnt US flags and chanted " Death to America".
Indonesian police fired tear gas and water cannon to disperse hundreds of demonstrators who massed outside the US Embassy in Jakarta, capital of the most populous Muslim nation.
In Kabul, protesters set fire to cars and shops and threw stones at police.
"We will defend our prophet until we have blood across our bodies. We will not let anyone insult him," said one protester in the Afghan capital. "Americans will pay for their dishonor."
Thousands also marched in Beirut, where a Hezbollah leader accused US spy agencies of being behind events that have unleashed a wave of anti-Western sentiment in the Muslim and Arab world.
The demonstrations were the latest across the world ignited by a short film made with private funds in the United States and posted on the Internet that depicted the Prophet Mohammad as a fool, a womanizer and a homosexual.
The situation saddles US President Barack Obama with an unexpected foreign policy headache as he campaigns for re-election in November, even though his administration has condemned the film as reprehensible and disgusting.
In a torrent of violence last week, the US ambassador to Libya and three other Americans were killed in an attack in Benghazi and US and other foreign embassies were stormed in cities in Asia, Africa and the Middle East by furious Muslims. At least nine other people have been killed.
Washington has sent ships, extra troops and special forces to protect US interests and citizens in the Middle East, while a number of its embassies have evacuated staff and are on high alert for trouble.
A White House spokesman said Obama spoke by telephone to senior diplomats at the weekend to reassure them of his support.
"He called the chiefs of mission in Sudan, Tunisia, Libya and Yemen to let those diplomats know that he was thinking about them, that their safety remains a top priority of his, and it is something he will remain focused on," spokesman Josh Earnest said.
Despite Obama's efforts early in his tenure to improve relations with the Arab and Muslim world, the new violence adds to a host of problems including the continued US military involvement in Afghanistan, Iran's nuclear program, the Syrian civil war and the fall-out from the Arab Spring revolts.