Hezbollah's leader urges more protests

In Jakarta, Indonesia, protesters shout during a demonstration. Hundreds of Indonesians clashed with police Monday near the U.S. Embassy.
In Jakarta, Indonesia, protesters shout during a demonstration. Hundreds of Indonesians clashed with police Monday near the U.S. Embassy. (DITA ALANGKARA / Associated Press)

Rallies spurred by an anti-Islamic video continued in nations across the world.

Posted: September 18, 2012

BEIRUT, Lebanon - In a rare public appearance, the leader of the militant Hezbollah group exhorted hundreds of thousands of supporters Monday to keep up the campaign against an anti-Islamic video that has unleashed deadly violence and anger at the United States across the Muslim world.

Although the massive, well-organized rally in Beirut was peaceful, protesters in Afghanistan set fires near a U.S. military base; clashed with police in Pakistan, where one demonstrator was killed; and battled with officers outside the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia.

The turmoil surrounding the low-budget video that mocks the Prophet Muhammad showed no sign of ebbing in the week after protesters first swarmed the walls of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo. Four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya, died amid a demonstration in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi.

At least 10 protesters have died in the riots, and the targeting of Western diplomatic sites has forced Washington to increase security in several countries.

The appeal for sustained protests by Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Lebanon's powerful Hezbollah group, could stoke more fury over the video, Innocence of Muslims. Nasrallah has rarely been seen in public since his group battled Israel in a monthlong war in 2006, fearing assassination. Since then, he has communicated with his followers and gives news conference mostly via satellite link.

He spoke for about 15 minutes before a crowd estimated by police at about 500,000, many with headbands of green and yellow - the colors of Hezbollah - and the words "at your service God's prophet" written on them.

Nasrallah warned of serious repercussions if the U.S. does not ban the film and have it removed from the Internet. "The world should know that our anger is not a passing thing. . . . This is the start of a serious campaign that must continue all over the Muslim world in defense of the prophet of God," he said, calling for a series of demonstrations this week to denounce the video.

One politician, former Lebanese President Amin Gemayel, sharply criticized Hezbollah's call for protests, saying there were no guarantees they would remain peaceful.

"We understand how the Muslims feel because of this insult against the prophet and the Quran . . . but is this the way to defend them?" he asked at a news conference.

The movie portrays the prophet Muhammad as a fraud, a womanizer and a child molester. Protesters have directed their anger at the U.S. government, insisting it should do something to stop it, although the film was privately produced. American officials have criticized it for intentionally offending Muslims.

Protests turned violent for the first time in Afghanistan as hundreds of people burned cars and threw rocks at a U.S. military base in the capital, Kabul. Many in the crowd shouted "Death to America!" and "Death to those people who have made a film and insulted our prophet."

On the main thoroughfare through the city, demonstrators burned tires, shipping containers, and at least one police vehicle before they were dispersed. Police shot in the air to prevent about 800 protesters from pushing toward government buildings downtown, said Azizullah, a police officer at the site who, like many Afghans, only goes by one name.

More than 20 police officers were slightly injured, most by rocks, said Gen. Fahim Qaim, the commander of a city quick-reaction police force.

Several hundred demonstrators in northwestern Pakistan clashed with police after setting fire to a press club and a government building, said police official Mukhtar Ahmed. The protesters apparently attacked the press club in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province's Upper Dir district because they were angry their rally wasn't getting more coverage, he said.

One protester died when police and demonstrators exchanged fire, and several others were wounded, police official Akhtar Hayat said.

The chief justice of Pakistan's Supreme Court ordered the government's telecommunications authority to block access to the film. Government officials have said they are trying to block the video, as well as other content considered blasphemous, but it was still viewable Monday on YouTube.

U.S. officials say they cannot limit free speech and Google Inc. refuses to do a blanket ban on the YouTube video clip. This leaves individual countries putting up their own blocks.

Hundreds of Indonesians clashed with police outside the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta, hurling rocks and firebombs and setting tires on fire.

At least 10 police were taken to the hospital after being hit with rocks and attacked with bamboo sticks, said Police Chief Maj. Gen. Untung Rajad. He said four protesters were arrested and one was hospitalized.

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