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10 Muslims die in Libyan cartoon riots after Italian politician wears Mohammed cartoon T shirt

February 18, 2006

Libya Suspends Official After Deadly Riots

Libya Suspends Interior Minister, Citing 'Excessive Use of Force' in Deadly Riots Over Drawings

By KHALED EL-DEEB Associated Press Writer

The Associated Press

TRIPOLI, Libya - Libya suspended its interior minister Saturday, citing an "excessive use of force" in riots the day before that left at least 10 people dead in the bloodiest protest yet against the Prophet Muhammad cartoons roiling the Muslim world.

The controversy claimed another political casualty in Italy as Reforms Minister Roberto Calderoli offered his resignation after wearing a T-shirt featuring the drawings, a provocative move blamed for Friday's protests at the Italian consulate in the Libyan city of Benghazi, in which at least 10 people were killed.

In eastern Pakistan, police opened fire on a mob trying to burn down shops, the latest in a spate of cartoon protests that have killed five people in the conservative country. At least four people were injured in the city of Chaniot, said police officer Mohammad Ishaq.

Pakistani authorities, meanwhile, imposed a ban on rallies in Islamabad ahead of a planned protest Sunday. In the southern city of Karachi, though, about 12,000 women joined a rally organized by the country's oldest and best-organized religious party, Jamaat-e-Islami.

"We want that those who drew these blasphemous cartoons to be hanged," Aysha Munawar, a senior party leader, told the crowd.

In London, more than 10,000 people joined an angry but peaceful protest against the drawings. "Free speech cheap insults," read some placards. "How dare you insult the blessed Prophet Muhammad?" asked another.

At least 29 people have been killed in protests across the Muslim world, according to a count by The Associated Press.

Also Saturday, some 1,000 Muslims protested peacefully in Indian-controlled Kashmir, carrying banners reading "We love our Prophet" and "Down with enemies of Islam."

Libya's parliamentary secretariat announced the suspension of Interior Minister Nasr al-Mabrouk and said all those involved in Friday's riots "and the officials responsible for them" should be referred to investigations and to the courts.

"We condemn the excessive use of force and the inappropriate way that went beyond the limits of carrying out the duties of the police," the secretariat said in a statement.

It also declared Sunday a day of mourning for "our martyr sons."

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

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

Domenico Bellantone, an Italian diplomat, said 10 or 11 people all Libyan had died.

The riot appeared to be a reaction to Calderoli's decision to wear a T-shirt printed with the cartoons. His declaration that he would do so was widely published in Libya.

Calderoli, a member of the anti-immigrant Northern League Party, wore the T-shirt beneath a suit on Friday and showed it off during an appearance on television. Hours later, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi asked for his resignation.

Calderoli said Saturday he had agreed to offer his resignation to stop "the shameful exploitation which in these hours has been directed against me," the Italian news agency ANSA reported.

There was no demonstration outside the Italian Embassy in Tripoli, a possible indication of greater state control in the capital. Politics is tightly controlled in Libya a former Italian colony and open dissent is rare.

The Italian ambassador to Tripoli met late Friday with the Libyan interior minister "who expressed the condemnation of his government for the acts of violence occurring in Benghazi," the Italian Foreign Ministry said.

In London, demonstrators carried placards reading "Europe lacks respect for others," and "Don't they teach manners in Denmark?"

Police said about 10,000 people were present. The Muslim Action Committee, which organized the protest, estimated that 20,000 people were there. There were no reports of violence.

On Friday, a Pakistani cleric announced a $1 million bounty for killing the cartoonist but did not give a name apparently unaware that 12 different people had drawn the pictures. Denmark temporarily closed its embassy in Pakistan and advised its citizens to leave the country.

The Danish newspaper that first printed the caricatures in September, the Jyllands-Posten, has since apologized to Muslims for the cartoons, one of which shows Muhammad wearing a bomb-shaped turban. Other Western 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, who have been living under police protection since last year, condemned the bounty offer.

"It is totally absurd what is happening. The cartoonists just did their job and they did nothing illegal," he said.

Associated Press writers Jan M. Olsen in Copenhagen, Denmark, and Jennifer Price in London contributed to this report.

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