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More killed over prophet caricatures

Police fire on rioting Libyans. In Pakistan, a cleric offers $1-million for the death of the cartoonist.

Associated Press
Published February 18, 2006


TRIPOLI, Libya - Libyans angry over caricatures of the prophet Mohammed rioted at the Italian Consulate on Friday, storming the building and setting it on fire. A diplomat said at least 10 people were killed in clashes with police.

It was the deadliest demonstration yet against the cartoons, which have set off violent protests throughout the Muslim world. At least 29 people have been killed altogether.

In Pakistan, a cleric announced a $1-million bounty for killing the cartoonist. Denmark, where a newspaper first published the cartoons, temporarily closed its embassy in Pakistan and advised its citizens to leave the country.

Libyan security officials said 11 people were killed or wounded during the riot in the eastern city of Benghazi when police firing bullets and tear gas tried to contain more than 1,000 demonstrators hurling rocks and bottles. The casualties included police officers, but the officials declined to say how many people had died.

Rioters charged the consular compound and set fire to the first floor of the building, the Italian Foreign Ministry said.

Antonio Simoes-Concalves, an Italian consular official in Benghazi, Libya's second-largest city, said Libyan police were not able to control the crowd.

The riot appeared to be a reaction to Italian Cabinet Minister Roberto Calderoli, who said this week he would wear a T-shirt printed with the cartoons, which have provoked protests across the Muslim world. His remark was widely published in Libya.

Calderoli wore the T-shirt beneath a suit on Friday. Hours later, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi asked for his resignation, the ANSA news agency reported.

The Italian Consulate is the only Western diplomatic mission in Benghazi.

In Pakistan, the cleric Mohammed Yousaf Qureshi said the mosque and the religious school he leads would give a $25,000 reward and a car for killing the cartoonist who drew the caricatures - considered blasphemous by many Muslims. He said a local jewelers' association would also give $1-million, but no representative of the association was available to confirm the offer.

Qureshi did not name any cartoonist and he did not appear aware that 12 different people had drawn the pictures.

A Danish newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, first printed the caricatures in September. The newspaper has since apologized to Muslims for the cartoons, one of which shows Mohammed wearing a bomb-shaped turban. Other newspapers, mostly in Europe, have reprinted the pictures, asserting their news value and the right to freedom of expression.

Mogens Blicher Bjerregaard, president of the Danish Journalist Union and spokesman for the cartoonists, condemned it.

He said the cartoonists - who have been living under police protection since last year - are aware of the reward and are "feeling bad about the whole situation."