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Danish embassy torched in Beirut after protests go ahead depite Danish warning it will lead to attack

February 5, 2006

Protesters torched the building after security forces failed to block them

Beirut protests

Lebanese protesters have set the Danish embassy in Beirut on fire in protest at the publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad.

Thousands of people rallied outside the building and security forces fired tear gas in an attempt to keep them at bay.

But smoke was later seen rising from the building housing the Danish mission after demonstrators broke into it.

On Saturday, Syrian protesters angered by the cartoons, torched the Danish and Norwegian embassies in Damascus.

Denmark and Norway condemned Syria for failing to stop the attacks and urged their citizens to leave the country.

The demonstration in Beirut descended into violence when Islamic extremists tried to break through security barriers protecting the embassy. Some 2,000 army troops and riot police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse them and fired their weapons into the air.

But the onslaught continued and the embassy building was set ablaze.

Witnesses said at least 10 injured people were taken away in ambulances, the AP news agency reported.

The embassy building, which also houses commercial offices, was believed to be unoccupied.

Some people in the crowd are not happy with the violence, thinking this was going to be a peaceful demonstration, reports the BBC's Jim Muir from the scene of the violence.

He says some of the wilder elements in the crowd have succeeded in turning it into a very angry and quite violent demonstration.

There were also reports of damage to property in a Christian area of the city.

'Inexcusable failure'

Norway and Denmark criticised Syria for allowing Saturday's demonstration to go ahead.

"The principle of diplomatic relations is that diplomats can work safely and the fact that this has been broken is extremely serious," Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere told a news conference in Oslo.

"It's horrible and totally unacceptable," Denmark's Foreign Minister Per Stig Moeller told Danish public television.

The US also criticised Syria's approach, saying it was "inexcusable" for such damage to be inflicted on diplomatic missions.

"The United States condemns in the strongest terms the burning of the Danish and Norwegian embassies in Damascus, Syria today, which also damaged the Chilean and Swedish embassies," a White House spokesman said.

"The government of Syria's failure to provide protection to diplomatic premises, in the face of warnings that violence was planned, is inexcusable."

Thousands of protesters had scaled the Danish site amid chants of "God is great", before moving on to attack the Norwegian mission.

The cartoons sparked Muslim outrage across the world, following their publication in a Danish paper in September.

One depicts Muhammad as a terrorist. Any images of the Prophet are banned under Islamic tradition.

However, several European papers recently reprinted the cartoons, citing free speech.

The publications prompted diplomatic sanctions, boycotts and death threats in some Arab nations.

CARTOON ROW 30 Sept: Danish paper publishes cartoons 20 Oct: Muslim ambassadors complain to Danish PM 10 Jan: Norwegian publication reprints cartoons 26 Jan: Saudi Arabia recalls its ambassador 30 Jan: Gunmen raid EU's Gaza office demanding apology 31 Jan: Danish paper apologises 1 Feb: Papers in France, Germany, Italy and Spain reprint cartoons 4 Feb: Syrians attack Danish and Norwegian embassies in Damascus

This item is available on the Militant Islam Monitor website, at