Unrest continues over anti-Muslim film

Angry protests continued throughout the Arab world this week, in response to an anti-Muslim video posted on YouTube that purportedly insults the Prophet Muhammad.

In Kabul, Afghanistan, a suicide bomber rammed a car packed with explosives into a minibus in Kabul on Sept. 18, killing at least 12 people in what a militant group said was revenge for the film.

That same day, about 200 people from various Islamic groups torched an American flag and tires outside the U.S. Consulate in Medan, Indonesia’s third-largest city.

Afghans protest near Kabul Sept. 14 against anti-Islam YouTube video. photo/ap-rahmat gul

Also Sept. 18, in Srinagar, Kashmir, marchers burned U.S. flags and an effigy of President Barack Obama, shutting down businesses and public transportation, while in Peshawar, Pakistan, hundreds of angry protesters broke through a barricade outside the U.S. Consulate and threw bricks and flaming wads of cloth at the police, who pushed them back by firing tear gas and rubber bullets and charging with batons.

The protests spread to Israel, where some 500 Palestinians demonstrated against the film in the Shuafat refugee camp in east Jerusalem, chanting “We love you Muhammad” and “We will all sacrifice ourselves for the prophet.”

About 200 people marched to a nearby Israeli checkpoint, lobbing rocks and firebombs at security forces, who fired stun grenades, tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the protesters. No serious injuries were reported. And Israeli police prevented about 500 Muslims from marching to the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem after Friday prayers Sept. 14 on the Temple Mount, according to news reports.

These and other protesters appear to have heeded a call posted on militant websites from al Qaida in the Land of the Islamic Maghreb (North Africa) praising the Sept. 11 killing of U.S. ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens in Benghazi, and urging Muslims to pull down and burn U.S. flags at embassies, and kill or expel American diplomats to “purge our land of their filth in revenge for the honor of the prophet.” The group threatened attacks in Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco and Mauritania.

In Egypt, the prosecutor’s office issued arrest warrants for seven Egyptian Coptic Christians and Florida-based American pastor Terry Jones and referred them to trial on charges linked to the film. The prosecutor’s office said in a statement that the accused, who include the film’s alleged producer, face charges of harming national unity, insulting and publicly attacking Islam and spreading false information. The office said they could face the death penalty, if convicted.

The case is largely symbolic since the accused are believed to be outside of Egypt and unlikely to travel to the country to face the charges. Instead, the prosecutor’s decision to take legal action appears aimed at absorbing at least some of the public anger over the amateur film, which portrays the Muhammad as a fraud, womanizer and buffoon.

Among those charged is Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, 55, an Egyptian Copt living in Southern California who is believed to be behind the film. Nakoula told the Associated Press in an interview last week that he was the manager of the company that produced “Innocence of Muslims”; it was a 14-minute clip from that film that appeared on YouTube and sparked the global protests.

Nakoula was questioned near Los Angeles Sept. 15 after being brought by federal probation officers, the New York Times reported, but he was not placed under arrest.

In 2010, Nakoula pleaded no contest to federal bank fraud charges and was ordered to pay more than $790,000 in restitution, the AP reported. The report cited federal court papers saying that Nakoula had used the name Nicola Bacily, among other aliases.

Under the terms of his sentencing, he is not allowed to use the Internet without permission from his probation officer. — ap & jta