Libyans riot over prophet cartoon; 10 dead - East Valley Tribune: Nation / World

Libyans riot over prophet cartoon; 10 dead

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Posted: Saturday, February 18, 2006 6:35 am | Updated: 2:10 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

TRIPOLI, Libya - Libyans set fire to the Italian consulate in a riot that left at least 10 people dead, the bloodiest protest yet against the Prophet Muhammad cartoons that have roiled the Muslim world.

Most of the protests have been in Muslim countries, but on Saturday more than 10,000 people turned out for a march in London, many arriving in buses from cities around Britain.

The protesters gathered in Trafalgar Square where speaker after speaker denounced the cartoons, first published in a Danish newspaper last September then reprinted in European papers in recent weeks in the name of press freedom.

Also Saturday, some 1,000 Muslims protested peacefully in Indian-controlled Kashmir, carrying banners reading "We love our Prophet" and "Down with enemies of Islam."

In eastern Pakistan, police opened fire on a mob trying to burn down shops, the latest in a spate of cartoon protests that have killed five people in the conservative country. At least four people were injured in the city of Chaniot, said police officer Mohammad Ishaq.

A day earlier, a Pakistani cleric announced a $1 million bounty for killing the cartoonist. Denmark temporarily closed its embassy in Pakistan and advised its citizens to leave the country.

At least 29 people have been killed in protests across the Muslim world.

Libyan security officials said 11 people were killed or wounded during Friday's riot in the eastern city of Benghazi when police firing bullets and tear gas tried to contain more than 1,000 demonstrators hurling rocks and bottles. The casualties included police officers, but the officials declined to say how many people had died.

Rioters charged the consular compound and set fire to the first floor of the building, the Italian Foreign Ministry said.

Domenico Bellantone, an Italian diplomat, said 10 or 11 people - all Libyan - had died.

Antonio Simoes-Concalves, an Italian consular official in Benghazi, Libya's second-largest city, said Libyan police were not able to control the crowd.

"They are still continually firing," Simoes-Concalves said Friday night, speaking on the telephone from inside the consulate where he was holed up.

About an hour after Simoes-Concalves spoke, Bellantone said the rioters had dispersed.

"The situation is calm now," he said.

Libyan television showed police officers carrying Kalashnikov rifles in the street outside the consulate.

The riot appeared to be a reaction to Italian Cabinet Minister Roberto Calderoli, who said this week he would wear a T-shirt printed with the cartoons, which have provoked protests across the Muslim world. His remark was widely published in Libya.

Calderoli wore the T-shirt beneath a suit on Friday. Hours later, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi asked for his resignation. The Italian consulate is the only Western diplomatic mission in Benghazi.

There was no demonstration outside the Italian Embassy in Tripoli, a possible indication of greater state control in the capital. Politics is tightly controlled in Libya - a former Italian colony - and open dissent is rare.

The Italian ambassador to Tripoli met late Friday with the Libyan interior minister "who expressed the condemnation of his government for the acts of violence occurring in Benghazi," the Italian Foreign Ministry said.

In Pakistan, the cleric Mohammed Yousaf Qureshi said the mosque and the religious school he leads would give a $25,000 reward and a car for killing the cartoonist who drew the caricatures - considered blasphemous by many Muslims. He said a local jewelers' association would also give $1 million, but no representative of the association was available to confirm the offer.

Qureshi did not name any cartoonist and he did not appear aware that 12 different people had drawn the pictures.

The Danish newspaper that first printed the caricatures in September, the Jyllands-Posten, has since apologized to Muslims for the cartoons, one of which shows Muhammad wearing a bomb-shaped turban. Other Western newspapers, mostly in Europe, have reprinted the pictures, asserting their news value and the right to freedom of expression.

Mogens Blicher Bjerregaard, president of the Danish Journalist Union and spokesman for the cartoonists, condemned the bounty offer.

"It is totally absurd what is happening. The cartoonists just did their job and they did nothing illegal," he said.

He said the cartoonists - who have been living under police protection since last year - are aware of the reward and are "feeling bad about the whole situation."

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