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Man killed as Afghan crowd attacks Norwegian base - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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KABUL (Reuters) -Afghan police opened fire on a mob trying to storm a NATO peacekeeping base housing Norwegian troops on Tuesday as protests over cartoons depicting Islam’s Prophet Mohammad flared again.

One person was killed and several wounded in Maymana, Faryab province, when police opened fire to break up the crowd of about 1,000 protesters, police chief Khaliullah Ziaye said.

A resident of Maymana said the crowd threw petrol bombs and stones at the camp manned by Norwegian troops and a military vehicle was torched.

A spokeswoman for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Kabul said grenades had also been thrown during the protest, but no Norwegian troops had been hurt.

“ISAF is operating under difficult circumstances and is exercising the fullest possible restraint. Reinforcements have been sent,” a NATO official in Europe said.

A Norwegian defense forces spokesman said protesters had also fired guns.

“The situation is still out of control, but we have established some kind of a show of force with F-16s” which overflew the city, Norway’s defense ministry said. Two Norwegians had been slightly injured, he said.

There were also small, mostly peaceful protests in Kabul. A window at ISAF headquarters in the city had been smashed by a stone, apparently thrown by a protester, the spokeswoman said.

The attacks came after several days of protests in Afghanistan over the issue. At least three Afghans were killed in protests in different parts of the country on Monday.

Across the border in Pakistan, about 5,000 Islamists paraded through Peshawar, the capital of North West Frontier Province, which is ruled by an Islamist coalition made up of several pro-Taliban groups.

Another 5,000 people rallied in North Waziristan, a restive tribal region that has been scene of fierce battles between Pakistani security forces and al Qaeda-linked militants in recent years.

The protests in Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province were the largest since the beginning of the controversy.

“Islam is being defamed through such cartoons. It is a terrorist act,” said provincial chief minister Akram Durrani, who led the rally. “Those responsible for publishing such cartoons must be punished under international law.”

CONTROVERSY IGNITED

The controversy over the cartoons was reignited when several European newspapers reprinted the caricatures, including one showing Mohammad wearing a bomb-shaped turban, saying press freedom was more important than religious taboos.

The Islamists in Pakistan directed their anger against the United States even though the cartoons have not been published in U.S. papers and the United States criticized their publication.

“We are condemning America because it is patronizing those who printed the cartoons,” said cleric Mohammad Sadiq.

Khan Ayaz, an Islamist student leader, added: “Muslim countries should teach such a lesson to the culprits that no one dare to do it again in future.”

Pakistan, a key ally in the U.S.-led war on terrorism, summoned diplomats of several European countries last week to lodge a protest over the reprinting of the cartoons.

While the street protests have failed to draw big crowds in Pakistan the issue has offended many of the Islamic nation’s population of 150 million.

“What has been published is absolutely wrong, but it is up to the central government to lodge a protest,” said Mohammad Aqeel, a shopkeeper, who did not take part in the demonstration.

His views were echoed by Pakistan International Airlines pilot Captain Kashan Dodhy and former TV presenter Ayesha Khan.

“Obviously this is something extremely wrong, and to protest against it is our right,” Dodhy said. “But that doesn’t mean people should resort to violence — Islam is a peace-loving religion.

“The West always talks and preaches about rights and freedom,” said Khan. “But they should know we Muslims are sensitive about certain issues, and do not take them lightly.”

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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