international affairs

Anti-U.S. Protests Spark Up Again in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Beyond [Updated]

Afghan demonstrators torch a portrait of US President Barack Obama as another demonstrator (bottom L) prepares to burn a depiction of US and Israeli flags in Kabul on September 16, 2012. Hundreds of students poured into the streets of Kabul September 16 shouting anti-US slogans to protest against a film mocking Islam that has sparked deadly riots in the Middle East and North Africa, police said. The protesters, mostly students from Kabul University, shouted
Photo: Massoud Hossaini/AFP/Getty Images

After a tense, temporary calm to start the weekend, protests in the Middle East, fueled by a crass anti-Islam YouTube video, were ignited once again on Sunday, when at least two protesters were killed by police near the U.S. Consulate in Karachi, Pakistan. Deaths were also reported in the cities of Hyderabad and Lahore, while riots have also boiled over in Kabul, Afghanistan, where the latest “death to America” demonstrations have caught on. “We will defend our prophet until we have blood across our bodies. We will not let anyone insult him,” said one demonstrator. “Americans will pay for their dishonor.”

Police Commander Lieutenant General Fahem Qayem explained, “There were between 3,000 and 4,000 demonstrators [in Kabul]. They burned some police cars, but we could split them up and prevent the insecurity widening.” The U.S. and British embassies are on high alert throughout the region as violence continues to spread days after the crude online trailer for Innocence of Muslims first received international attention.

We will destroy America like this flag!” said a protester in Afghanistan, Haaretz reports. “We will chase away the American ambassador from the country!”

And there’s no end in sight. In Indonesia on Monday, police used tear gas and water cannons, NBC reports, to scatter protesters near the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta. A suicide bomber, whose connection to the film protests is unknown, killed seven people in Iraq, close to the Western embassies.

The leader of Hezbollah, meanwhile, has called for still more protests across in Beirut and across Turkey later in the week. “Those responsible for the film, starting with the U.S., must be held accountable,” said Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah. “All these developments are being orchestrated by U.S. intelligence.” On Saturday, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said, “It would appear that there is some leveling off on the violence that we thought might take place,” but added, accurately, “Having said that, these demonstrations are likely to continue over the next few days, if not longer.”

Update: Protests are popping up beyond the Middle East, including in Thailand, a Buddhist-majority nation home to about 1.2 million Muslims, AFP reports. The consulate in Bangkok plans to close, and “non-essential personnel will be sent home,” because of hundreds of demonstrators blocking traffic in the area. “Even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and possibly escalate into violence with little or no warning,” said the embassy in a statement. The U.S. Embassy in Japan is considering a similar precaution.

Fiery Protests Spark Up in Afghanistan, Pakistan