Afghans chant death to Danish and Dutch in protest

21/03/2008 - 14:07

By Ahmad Masood

KABUL (Reuters) - Some 5,000 Afghans chanted "death toDenmark" and "death to the Netherlands" in Kabul on Friday,protesting against the reprinting of a cartoon of the ProphetMohammad in Danish newspapers and a Dutch film on the Koran.

Sporadic demonstrations have sprung up across the deeplyconservative country in recent weeks against the cartoons andthe film with protesters demanding Danish and Dutch troops bewithdrawn from Afghanistan and their embassies shut down.

Protesters gathered around a mosque in the west of theAfghan capital after Friday prayers chanting "death toDenmark", "death to the Netherlands, "death to America" and"death to Jews".

Demonstrators burned Danish and Dutch flags and also aneffigy of Dutch right-wing politician Geert Wilders, who is dueto release a film thought to be critical of the Koran laterthis month. Wilders has given few details of the film, but inthe past he has called Islam's holy text a "fascist" book that"incites violence".

One unidentified speaker addressing the angry crowd througha megaphone from the back of a truck said the Afghan governmentshould expel Danish and Dutch troops and close their embassieswithin two days or "we will take action".

The Netherlands has some 1,650 troops, mainly in southernAfghanistan and 14 Dutch soldiers have been killed fightingTaliban militants. Denmark, meanwhile, has 550 troops innorthern and southern Afghanistan and 11 of its soldiers havebeen killed.

Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden this week warned thatEurope would be punished for the cartoons, first published by aDanish paper in September 2005. The images ignited violentprotests across the world, including in Afghanistan, whennewspapers around the world reprinted them the following year.

Last month, some Danish newspapers reprinted one of thecartoons in solidarity with the cartoonist after three men werearrested on suspicion of plans to kill him, sparking moreanger.

Many Muslims consider any depiction of the Prophet asoffensive.

Resentment is growing against the presence of more than50,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan.

Many Afghan are frustrated at poor security and the slowpace of development more than six years after U.S.-led andAfghan forces toppled the Taliban after the hardline Islamistmovement refused to hand over bin Laden in the wake of theSeptember 11 attacks on the United States.

(Writing by Jon Hemming; Editing by Alex Richardson)

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