MANILA / KABUL: Protests on Monday turned violent for the first time in Afghanistan and Indonesia over an American film mocking Islam as hundreds of angry men clashed with police, hurling stones and shouting “Death to America”.
The outbreaks of violence were the latest eruptions of anger over the low-budget trailer made in the United States and aired on YouTube that has fanned unrest around the world, leaving at least 18 people dead.
The movie entitled “Innocence of Muslims”, believed to have been produced by a small group, has sparked a week of furious protests outside US embassies and other American symbols in at least 20 countries.
In Kabul on Monday, more than 1,000 Afghans protested, setting police cars and commercial storage containers ablaze on Jalalabad Road, Kabul police chief Mohammad Ayoub Salangi told AFP.
Between 40 to 50 policemen were “very slightly wounded” by stone throwers and members of the crowd waving sticks, said Salangi, who added that he had also been grazed by a stone.
Burning tyres sent thick black smoke streaming into the sky and rocks littered the road as shopkeepers hurriedly locked up and ran away.
A police official, who gave his name only as Hafiz, said protesters also threw stones at Camp Phoenix, a US-run military base in the capital, but were later driven back.
In Jakarta, protesters hurled petrol bombs and clashed with Indonesian police outside the US embassy shouting “America, America go to hell” in the first violent film protests in the world’s most populous Muslim nation.
Police were seen kicking or dragging away some of the protesters, while one policeman was taken away in an ambulance with his face bleeding.
Jakarta police spokesman Rikwanto, said officers used tear gas, water cannon and warning shots, but did not say whether they had fired live ammunition or blanks.
Many of the protesters were supporters of Islamic groups and were dressed in identical white Muslim garb, an AFP reporter saw.
About 3,000 Filipino Muslims burned US and Israeli flags in a protest.
The protesters in the southern city of Marawi gathered in a public square to express their anger at the movie, stamping on huge American and Israeli flags that they then set on fire.
The protesters carried placards saying, “Americans are satanic” and “Israeli Jews… enemy of Muslim Ummah (community)” in the Muslim-majority city with some protesters calling on President Benigno Aquino to ban the film.
However, there were no untoward incidents during the rally.
Meanwhile, Aquino told reporters he did not have the power to ban the low-budget US film that has sparked fury across the Islamic world.
“Don’t forget in our constitution, we have freedom of expression and we are not allowed to have laws limiting freedom of speech,” he said.
However he said the government movie censors board could ban the movie from being shown in local theatres or television.
Middle East and Africa
Monday’s protests came one day after the head of the Shia movement Hezbollah, blacklisted in the United States as a terrorist group, called from Lebanon for a week of protests.
Nasrallah described the film as “the worst attack ever on Islam” – worse than “The Satanic Verses” by British author Salman Rushdie, who has been under an Iranian fatwa calling for his murder since 1989.
“The whole world needs to see your anger on your faces, in your fists and your shouts,” he said in a televised speech broadcast just hours after Pope Benedict XVI ended a historic three-day visit to Lebanon.
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has also demanded violence against US diplomatic missions in the Middle East and Africa, and on US interests in the West.
Google bars access
Following complaints, Google is barring access to the video in Egypt, India, Indonesia, Libya and now Malaysia, while the government has restricted access to Google-owned YouTube in Afghanistan.
The unrest began in Cairo, where protesters stormed the US embassy late Tuesday, replacing the Stars and Stripes with an Islamic banner.
Hours later, the US consulate in Libya’s eastern city of Benghazi came under sustained attack, with four Americans killed, including ambassador Chris Stevens.
Mass demonstrations after the Friday prayers saw 11 protesters killed as police battled to defend US missions from mobs in Egypt, Lebanon, Sudan, Tunisia and Yemen.
The United States has deployed counter-terror Marine units to Libya to protect the Tripoli embassy and stationed two destroyers off the North African coast.
It has also sent a Marine unit to protect the US embassy in Yemen, where police shot dead four protesters and wounded 34 others on Thursday as a mob breached its perimeter.
Hundreds of Yemeni students demonstrated on Monday calling for the expulsion of the US ambassador and condemning the Marines’ deployment, an AFP reporter said.
The United States has evacuated all non-essential staff and family members from Sudan and Tunisia and warned US citizens against travel to the two countries.
And in Afghanistan, two US soldiers died and six US fighter jets were destroyed when Taliban fighters on Friday stormed one of the country’s largest airfields to avenge the anti-Islam film.