Hezbollah Backers Protest in Beirut Against Anti-Islam Film
Tens of thousands of supporters of the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah filled the streets of Beirut today to denounce the U.S. for an anti-Islamic film.
Many waved the group’s yellow flag as they chanted, “America, America, you are the greatest Satan” and “Israel, Israel, you’re the enemy of Muslims.”
The protest followed a call from Hassan Nasrallah, the chief of the pro-Iranian militant group, in which he announced a series of demonstrations starting today. Nasrallah made a rare public appearance at today’s protest and told the crowds to deafening cheers: “We will not remain silent over the insult to our prophet.”
The anti-Islamic film, which the U.S. has described as “very offensive,” last week triggered a series of bloody demonstrations and attacks on U.S. and European-linked targets across the Muslim world. U.S. ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and three colleagues were killed in an attack in Benghazi last week, while Muslim protesters in Tunis and elsewhere were killed.
The U.S. Embassy in Lebanon earlier today said it had received reports indicating an increased possibility of attacks against its citizens in the country. The Hezbollah protesters marched in southern Beirut, some distance from the U.S. embassy, in a suburb north of the city.
Nasrallah said the protests will continue until the film is removed from the Internet and the people responsible for it are held accountable. He said the U.S. should understand that the broadcast of the film in its entirety will have “grave” repercussions worldwide.
Nasrallah said Internet sites that broadcast the film should be boycotted and that Islamic governments should pressure the international community to issue laws that criminalize insults to religions.
He said the failure of the Muslim community to act will keep the door open for “new films and new insults.” He said today’s protest is the beginning of a “serious” movement to defend Prophet Muhammad.
Last week, the U.S. imposed financial sanctions against Nasrallah for aiding Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad. Hezbollah is designated a terrorist group by the U.S. and Israel.
In a statement posted on its website today, the embassy urged U.S. citizens to take additional security measures. Possible threats include kidnapping and “the potential for an upsurge in violence,” the embassy said.
Lebanese Interior Minister Marwan Sharbel said Hezbollah, which is part of the country’s government, has notified authorities of today’s protest and expects it to remain confined to southern Beirut, according to the official National News Agency. There were no reports of clashes following the protest.
In Tunis, military and other security personnel surrounded a mosque where one of the country’s leading Salafi clerics had delivered a sermon threatening the government and condemning the film. Hundreds of people were inside the building. They left the mosque after the standoff.
Demonstrations were also held in Asia. In Indonesia, about 400 protesters clashed with police outside the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta. Police fired tear gas when the demonstrators started throwing rocks at officers outside the embassy, spokesman Rikwanto, who goes by only one name, said by telephone today.
Police in Pakistan’s central city of Lahore resorted to baton charging and fired teargas shells after protesters tried to storm the U.S. consulate by scaling its main gates, according to a telecast by Express TV.
The U.S. Embassy in Bangkok said it would close at noon tomorrow after Thai police informed it that “several hundred people” planned a demonstration beginning at 1 p.m. local time.
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