Hezbollah leader urges new anti-US protests in Lebanon
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Hassan Nasrallah, leader of Lebanon’s Hezbollah, called Sunday for a week of protests against an amateur film made in the US that ridicules the Prophet Mohammed as anti-American demonstrations continued in several Muslim countries.
With anti-American sentiment still running high in countries around the world, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah called for a week of nationwide demonstrations in Lebanon during a televised speech to protest against a US-made film ridiculing the Prophet Mohammed.
“Innocence of Muslims”, excerpts of which were posted on YouTube, has triggered days of mass protests in several Muslim nations. In the latest outpouring of anger, around 1,000 Afghans took to the streets of the capital Kabul on Monday, throwing stones at a US base, torching cars and shouting "Death to America", police said.
Two police cars were among those set ablaze on Jalalabad road, where NATO and US military bases are located, Kabul police chief Mohammad Ayoub Salangi told AFP. Gunmen from the crowd reportedly opened fire at police, but no one was hurt, police said.
"We have not shot back and we won't," Salangi said.
Nasrallah’s speech was broadcast just hours after Pope Benedict XVI left Lebanon following a historic three-day visit, during which he prayed for Middle East leaders to work towards peace. The Hezbollah leader’s words had a decidedly less conciliatory tone.
"The whole world needs to see your anger on your faces, in your fists and your shouts," Nasrallah urged, saying he had deliberately postponed his speech until after the pope's departure.
"The whole world should know that the Prophet (Mohammed) has followers who will not be silent in the face of humiliation," he added.
‘The worst attack ever on Islam’
Nasrallah also called for people throughout the Muslim world to demonstrate against the film, which he described as "the worst attack ever on Islam, worse than the Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie, the burning of the Koran in Afghanistan and the cartoons in the European media."
Nasrallah's statement came after al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula called for further violence on Saturday against US diplomatic missions in the Middle East and Africa, while also encouraging attacks on US interests in the West.
Since the video emerged, United States embassies, consulates and institutions in at least 20 countries have been targeted by a wave of angry and sometimes violent protests, which have left at least 17 people dead and dozens others wounded.
The unrest first kicked off in Cairo, where protesters -- reportedly riled by clips of the film that had been broadcast on satellite TV channels and YouTube -- stormed the US embassy on Tuesday night, replacing the American flag with an Islamic banner.
Hours later, the United States consulate in Libya's eastern city of Benghazi came under fierce attack while protests against the film raged just beyond its walls. The violence claimed the lives of four American citizens, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens, the first US ambassador to be killed in more than 30 years.
Protests around the world gained in momentum and intensity on Friday, following weekly Muslim prayers. At least 11 protesters were killed in clashes with security forces protecting US missions in Egypt, Lebanon, Sudan, Tunisia and Yemen.
'Benghazi attack planned by foreigners'
Libya's parliament chief announced Sunday the arrest of 50 suspects over the killing of the Americans in Benghazi, blaming the attack on a few foreign extremists whom he said had entered the country from Mali and Algeria and pre-planned with local "affiliates and sympathisers".
"It was planned, definitely, it was planned by foreigners, by people who entered the country a few months ago," Mohammed al-Megaryef, president of the Libyan National Congress, told US broadcaster CBS television.
Stevens is believed to have died from smoke inhalation after becoming trapped in the blazing diplomatic compound, which came under fire from rocket-propelled grenades, mortars and small arms for several hours.
US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice offered a different account of the Benghazi assault, saying it began with a "spontaneous" protest over the film and that there was no evidence of pre-planning.
Since the Benghazi consulate attack, the United States has reinforced security around its foreign missions, stationing two destroyers off the North African coast and deploying counterterrorism Marine units to Libya to protect its embassy in the capital Tripoli. The US has also sent a Marine unit to protect the US embassy in Yemen’s capital Sanaa, where police shot dead four protesters and wounded 34 others on Thursday as a mob stormed the compound, breaching the perimeter.
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.
(FRANCE 24 with wires)