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New wave of protests across Asia, Africa over Prophet's cartoons

          Thousands of muslim worshippers emerging from prayers held new protests against cartoons of Prophet Muhammad in several Mideast cities and across Asia and Africa, erupting into clashes in some places despite religious leaders' attempts to keep marches peaceful.
Asia saw its biggest demonstrations yet on Friday, and scattered incidents of violence demonstrated the difficulty Islamic leaders face in managing what Muslims see as righteous anger over satirical drawings of their most revered figure.
In Nairobi, Kenya, police shot and wounded one person Friday as they sought to keep around 200 demonstrators protesting the cartoons from marching to the residence of Denmark's ambassador.
Around 60 protesters in Tehran threw firebombs at the French Embassy, shattering nearly every window on its street facade, even after a cleric at one of the Iranian capital's most prominent mosques urged people not to attack diplomatic missions in his Friday sermon.
"Down! Down with France! Down! Down with Israel," the crowd chanted. One firebomb exploded inside the embassy and started a small blaze that was quickly extinguished.
The drawings that have fueled the protests - one of which showed Muhammad with a bomb-shaped turban - were first published in a Danish paper in September, then reprinted in European papers in recent weeks in the name of press freedoms.
Arab governments, Muslim clerics and newspaper columnists have been urging calm in past days, fearing that recent weeks of violence have only increased anti-Islamic sentiment in the West. They've asked demonstrators not to attack embassies and to avoid flag-burning and insulting slogans.
Eleven people have been killed in the wave of protests, all of them during three days of riots this week in Afghanistan. A 12th person died in Nairobi Friday when he was hit by an ambulance rushing away the wounded person.
Protests had appeared to be easing in the Mideast in recent days, with no major ones on Thursday, though the issue of the drawings made some appearances as Shiite Muslims marked their holy day of Ashoura in Iran, Lebanon and Iraq.
But Friday prayers - a frequent launching ground for political demonstrations - brought a new wave of protests in Egypt, Jordan, the Palestinian territories and Morocco. No significant marches were seen in Syria or Lebanon, the scene of attacks on embassies in past weeks.
In Jordan, organisers and clerics were able to keep order.
Around 2,000 followers of the Muslim Brotherhood marched
peacefully through the capital Amman, after cleric Abdul-Rahman Ibdah told them in his sermon not to "imitate the rioters in other countries (who) harmed Islam."
Egypt saw its most widespread protests yet, with thousands protesting in 21 of its 26 provinces, including in Cairo and the second largest city, Alexandria.
Many were organised by the opposition Muslim Brotherhood, which has called for marches to continue - but peacefully. The group's deputy head, Khairat el-Shater, appealed to Muslims beforehand "not to let their furor drag them into attacking properties ... or to turn into a clash between civilisations."
But violence erupted when police tried to stop demonstrations.
In the northern Delta city of Mahalla el-Kubra, where some 15,000 people marched, security forces fired tear gas and water cannons when demonstrators refused to disperse. Protesters pelted them with rocks and attacked shops and cars. At least 20 people were arrested.
About 1,000 people protested outside Cairo's Al-Azhar Mosque, some chanting, "Osama bin Laden, explode Copenhagen," and burning a Danish flag. Some threw shoes at police trying to bar their way, and security forces beat protesters with sticks.
Afterward, Brotherhood official Mohammed Bishr said the violence and flag-burnings were caused by "intruders who infiltrated the peaceful demonstrations we called for."
Protests by Palestinians were smaller than in recent days, but still vehement. Gunmen fired in the air as thousands marched in Gaza, while about 2,000 women, young boys and older men marched around the Dome of the Rock shrine in Jerusalem, chanting "Bin Laden, strike again" and burning a Danish flag.
In Pakistan, rallies erupted around the country after prayers with some protesters burning foreign-made cheese and breaking windows while others clashed with police.
About 2,000 protesters briefly clashed with police in the north western Pakistani city of Peshawar, where they burned foreign-made dairy products. The crowd attacked shops before they were charged by police.
Thousands also demonstrated in Malaysia, Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka, while smaller rallies were held in Indonesia and the Philippines.
Many Muslims considered the caricatures offensive to Islam, which is interpreted to bar images of the revered prophet. The Danish newspaper that first published the drawings has apologised for causing Muslims any offence but the Danish government has said it cannot apologise for something done by its free press.
Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi talked of a "huge chasm that has emerged between the West and Islam," particularly because of Muslim frustrations at Western policies toward Iraq, Afghanistan and the Palestinians.
But a U.S. official praised Indonesia and Malaysia for their handling of the controversy, saying the two countries proved that Islam and democracy were compatible.
"The protests dissipated fairly quickly and there was a public discussion of it," said Eric John, deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs.


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