BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) – Lebanon apologized Monday to Denmark after thousands of rampaging Muslim demonstrators set fire to its diplomatic mission in Beirut, and hundreds of Afghans clashed with police and soldiers there in the most violent of worldwide protests by Muslims over caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad.
In the central Afghan city of Mihtarlam, one person was killed and four wounded, officials said. Police fired on the demonstrators after a man in the crowd shot at them and others threw stones and knives, said Dad Mohammed Rasa, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry.
Elsewhere, the main city in Indian-controlled Kashmir came to a standstill on Monday as shops, businesses and schools shut down for a day to protest the publication of caricatures in European newspapers. Dozens of protesters torched Danish flags, burned tires, shouted slogans and hurled rocks at passing cars in several parts of Srinagar.
In Australia, Muslim leaders demanded an Australian newspaper apologize after it published one of the cartoons.
The News Corp.-owned Courier-Mail, the biggest newspaper in the Queensland state capital of Brisbane, apparently became the first newspaper in Australia to publish one of the Danish caricatures on Saturday despite warnings from Muslim groups.
In Lebanon, Information Minister Ghazi Aridi said early Monday, after a late Sunday emergency Cabinet meeting, that the government had unanimously “rejected and condemned the acts of riots … that harmed Lebanon’s reputation and its civilized image and the noble aim of the demonstration.”
“The Cabinet apologizes to Denmark,” Aridi said.
At least one person died, 30 were injured, half of them security officials, and about 200 people were detained in the violence Sunday, officials said. Prime Minister Fouad Saniora said the arrested included 76 Syrians, 35 Palestinians and 38 Lebanese.
The Beirut violence came a day after violent protests in neighboring Syria, including the burning of the Danish mission there. The United States accused the Syrian government of backing the protests in Lebanon and Syria, an accusation also made by anti-Syrian Lebanese politicians.
Thousands also took to the streets Sunday elsewhere in the Muslim world and parts of Europe, including some 3,000 Afghans who burned a Danish flag and demanding that the editors at Jyllands-Posten, which originally published the cartoons, be prosecuted for blasphemy.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai urged forgiveness.
The Islamic Army in Iraq, a key group in the insurgency fighting U.S.-led and Iraqi forces, posted a second Internet statement Sunday calling for violence against citizens of countries where the caricatures have been published.
In Lebanon, the interior minister, who is responsible for the police force that failed to stop the protesters, submitted his resignation at the late Sunday cabinet session. The parliamentary opposition and even some Cabinet colleagues of Interior Minister Hassan Sabei had demanded he step down, but the government appeared divided, saying it only “took note” of the resignation offer. The government also called for a speedy investigation.
The attack on the Danish mission in Beirut took on a sectarian dimension in this mixed Muslim-Christian nation, which suffered a 1975-90 civil war. Muslim extremists took over the streets in the Christian Ashrafieh neighborhood where the Danish mission is located, wreaking havoc on property for about three hours.
Muslim clerics also denounced the violence Sunday, with some wading into the mobs to try to stop the attacks. Copenhagen had evacuated its diplomatic several days earlier in anticipation of protests, Lebanese officials said, and during the attacks it ordered its citizens to leave the country or stay indoors.
There was widespread criticism of the failure of the Lebanese security forces, which appeared to lose control of the streets for about three hours. But Sabei defended their actions.
“Things got out of hand when elements that had infiltrated into the ranks of the demonstrators broke through security shields,” he told reporters. “The one remaining option was an order to shoot, but I was not prepared to order the troops to shoot Lebanese citizens.”
Sabei, like other Lebanese politicians and Grand Mufti Mohammed Rashid Kabbani, spiritual leader of Lebanon’s Sunni Muslims, suggested that Islamic radicals had fanned the anger. Kabbani said outsiders among the protesters were trying to “distort the image of Islam.”
Legislator Michel Aoun, leader of an opposition coalition, referring to reports that Syrians were among the protesters, insisted the government should have quelled the riot, and called for its resignation. “We know that there were military units ready to intervene, but they were not ordered to intervene,” he told reporters.
The drawings, including one depicting the prophet wearing a turban shaped as a bomb with a burning fuse, have caused Muslim fury worldwide. Islamic law is interpreted to forbid any depictions of the Prophet Muhammad for fear they could lead to idolatry.
The caricatures have since been republished in several European and New Zealand newspapers as a statement on behalf of a free press.
Denmark’s Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen has said he disapproves of the caricatures, but insisted he cannot apologize on behalf of his country’s independent press.