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Afghans protest over Danish cartoon

  • Story Highlights
  • Afghans protest reprinting of Danish cartoon of Prophet Mohammed
  • Several newspapers in Denmark reprinted the controversial drawing last month
  • Protesters also demanding Afghan government expel Dutch, Danish soldiers
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(CNN) -- Thousands of Afghans packed a sports stadium in the western Afghanistan city Herat Saturday to protest the reprinting of the same Danish cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed that sparked rage in the Muslim world two years ago.

Afghan protesters burn a Danish flag during a demonstration last month in Kabul.

Several newspapers in Denmark reprinted the controversial drawing last month after Danish authorities arrested several people who allegedly were plotting a "terror-related assassination" of the cartoonist Kurt Westergaard.

The protesters shouted slogans in their native Dari language that, translated into English, included "death to enemies of Islam" and "death to Denmark and Holland and the insulters of Islam." Anti-American slogans were also heard.

"We have gathered here to express our anger against this inhuman act of the Danish paper that insulted our Holy Prophet," said Faqir Ahmad Herawi, a scholar who helped organize the protest.

Herawi said they were also demonstrating against a Dutch movie that is expected to be released soon "that will insult our holy book of Koran."

"We want to tell them that it is not acceptable for the Muslim people of Afghanistan," Herawi said.

Far-right Dutch lawmaker Geert Wilders has said that he will soon release an anti-Islam film in the Netherlands that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the FBI has warned may spark global protests and riots.

Herawi said that the protesters were demanding the Afghan government expel Dutch and Danish soldiers who are part of the NATO-led ISAF forces in Afghanistan.

Herat is not far from the Iranian border and many of its residents are sympathic to the Iranian government.

There were some indications the demonstration had the support of the provincial government.

A Herat resident, who goes by the name Daud, said he attended the rally after hearing about it on a state-run television broadcast.

Noor Khan Nikzad, a Herat provincial police spokesman, estimated the crowd size at about 10,000 people.

Nikzad said several hundred police officers were deployed around Herat's center to control the protesters should they turn violent.

The uproar over the cartoons ignited after the Danish newspaper published caricatures of Islam's Prophet Mohammed. Some Muslims believe it is forbidden by the Quran to show an image of the prophet.

Demonstrations erupted across the world in early 2006 after other newspapers reprinted the images months later as a matter of free speech. Some protests turned deadly.

Many protesters directed their ire at Denmark, prompting the closure of several Danish embassies in predominantly Muslim countries, including Indonesia and Pakistan.

Westergaard's cartoon depicted the prophet wearing a bomb as a turban with a lit fuse.

Westergaard said he wanted his cartoon to say that some people exploited the prophet to legitimize terror. However, many in the Muslim world interpreted the drawing as depicting their prophet as a terrorist. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

Journalist Farhad Peikar in Kabul contributed to this report.

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