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Afghan protest over anti-Islam film turns into melee; leaves 15 policemen injured

Published On: Sep 17 2012 06:33:36 AM CDT
Kabul, Afghanistan -

(CNN) -- The violent protest came as tensions remained high in the Muslim world, with American embassies and consulates on alert for further backlash over a privately produced video in the United States that mocked the Prophet Mohammed.

The man behind the anti-Islam film

At least 15 policemen were injured and two police vehicles burned when a protest of about 300 Afghans, who were gathered at an outer security perimeter several miles from the embassy, turned into a melee, a senior Afghan police official said on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation.

Protesters also clashed with police in Indonesia and in Pakistan.

The violence is the latest fallout from a 14-minute movie trailer posted on YouTube that mocks the Prophet Mohammed as a womanizer, child molester and ruthless killer. Islam categorically forbids any depictions of Mohammed, and blasphemy is an incendiary taboo in the Muslim world.
The man behind anti-Islamic film
Egypt cracks down on protesters
Peaceful protests in Pakistan

The Monday incidents comes seven days after protests first erupted Tuesday in Egypt and Libya, and spread to more than 20 nations with sometimes violent results.

The Libya protest is believed to have been used as a diversion by militants in an attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi that left Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans dead.

More details emerge on ambassador's last moments

The leader of Lebanon's Hezbollah movement, meanwhile, called for renewed protests Monday over the film.

Speaking on Hezbollah's al-Manar television service Sunday, Hassan Nasrallah said the movie -- excerpts of which have been posted online -- "represents a dangerous turn in the war against Islam and the great prophet, peace be upon him."

"The people who should be accountable, and brought to justice as well as punished and boycotted, are those directly responsible for the film and those who support them and protect them," Nasrallah said. "And it is the United States of America that is at the forefront of those."

President Barack Obama has disavowed the film, saying the United States rejects "the denigration of any religion, including Islam." But he also said "there is no excuse for attacks on our embassies and consulates."

Clinton demands nations protect U.S. embassies

Notably, not all of the protests have been violent and represent only a small fraction of populations. In Pakistan, for example, about 1,200 protesters Sunday clashed with police armed with batons and a water cannon near the U.S. Embassy in Karachi in a city of nearly 13 million people. One protester was killed, and 45 police officers injured, officials said.

In other key developments:

Taking no chances

While U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta told reporters over the weekend that the worst of the violence appeared to be over, the United States was taking no chances.

Non-essential personnel have been ordered to leave the American diplomatic missions in Sudan, Tunisia and Libya. Consular services also have been suspended until the end of the month in Yemen following a violent protest last week, the State Department said.

On Monday, German, Canadian and British consular services in Khartoum, Sudan, remained closed after protesters attacked a compound housing the German and British consulates in the city.

But there were signs that some diplomatic missions that had been targeted by protests were trying to get back to business.

At the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, the scene of five consecutive days of protests, the mission returned to full staffing Sunday, according to the U.S. State Department.
'It's a pot that was going to burst'
Pelosi on the anti-American protests
Rice on the anti-American protests abroad

Calls for tolerance

Despite the firm condemnation by U.S. government officials, some in the Muslim world -- especially those raised in regimes in which the government must authorize any film production -- cannot accept that a movie like "Innocence of Muslims" can be produced without being sanctioned by Washington, said Council of Foreign Relations scholar Ed Husain.

The movie, "Innocence of Muslims," was privately produced by a man federal officials identified as Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, a California man on probation for bank fraud, and authorities have said they are reviewing whether he violated the terms of his release.

Over the weekend, federal probation authorities brought Nakoula in for questioning as part of the effort to review whether he violated his parole.

Reports that Nakoula, who initially told the Wall Street Journal he was an Israeli, is a Coptic Christian have raised concerns about a possible backlash against the minority religious group in Egypt where tensions have emerged in recent years between Copts and Muslims.

Muslim and Coptic leaders were scheduled to hold a joint news conference Monday in Los Angeles to condemn violent reactions that have been playing out.

Targeting a press club in Pakistan

At least one person was killed Monday when protesters clashed with police in an anti-American demonstration in northwest Pakistan's tribal region along the Afghan border.

About 100 people took to the streets in a demonstration organized by university students in the Lower Dir district of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, police official Ehsanullah Ullah said.

The person was killed when police fired warning shots in the air to disperse protesters who were storming a local press club, he said. Authorities are investigating whether the death resulted from police bullet.

In Indonesia, protesters threw rocks and used slingshots to toss marbles at riot police outside the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta on Monday. Police responded with tear gas.

Blocking access to the movie trailer

Google India has blocked access to the movie trailer, India's external affairs spokesman Syed Akbaruddin's statement issued Sunday.

Should Google censor film?

"In connection with recent events we would like to reiterate that India has always strongly condemned all acts that disparage religious beliefs and hurt religious sentiments," Akbaruddin said.

"The ministry of external Affairs is in touch with US officials who share our conc"erns on the matter. Google India has, in compliance with Indian law, blocked access to the offensive material."

The move by Google India follows news last week YouTube restricted access to the controversial video.

The Afghan government has ordered an indefinite block of YouTube to prevent people there from watching the clips and staging violent protests.

More arrests in consulate attack in Libya

Libyan authorities made more arrests in connection with the attack on the consulate that left Stevens and three other Americans dead.

Mohamed al-Magariaf, the head of Libya's General National Congress, said Sunday that about 50 people have been arrested, though another senior government official said the number was not that high.

The official said as many as 50 people have been brought in for questioning but not all were detained. They were people who were at a protest outside the consulate but there was no indication yet that they took part in the violence, he said.

The latest arrests are in addition to four that Libyan authorities made Thursday.

U.S. officials believe extremists carried out the attack on the consulate in Benghazi, but that they did it after a spontaneous protest began outside the building, said Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

The FBI is investigating the attack but has yet to enter the country because of volatility there. In the meantime, FBI agents are interviewing witnesses outside Libya, federal law enforcement officials said.

CNN's Nasir Habib, Reza Sayah, Jessica King, Chelsea J. Carter and Greg Botelho contributed to this report.