by Gjermund E Jansen
Sat Feb 4th, 2006 at 11:09:20 PM EST
The cartoon controversy took a rather nasty turn today when a demonstration in the Syrian capital Damascus, was hijacked by a violent mob. It all started when the mob broke a rather meagre police barrier and turned on the Danish and Norwegian embassies putting them ablaze.
embassy in Damascus
Thousands of Syrian demonstrators stormed the Danish and Norwegian embassies in Damascus today, setting fire to both buildings in protest against caricatures of Islam's prophet.
Police fired tear gas and water cannons to disperse demonstrators who had moved on to the Norwegian embassy after setting fire to the Danish embassy, about six kilometres (four miles) away. But the protesters broke through police barriers and set fire to the building, shouting "Allahu Akbar"
A Norwegian news agency quoted an unnamed embassy employee as saying no Norwegians were inside the building at the time.
Protesters then moved toward the French embassy, some nine kilometres (six miles) away.
"With our blood and souls we defend you, O Prophet of God," they chanted.
(.....)Muslims in Europe have reacted less passionately than their counterparts in the Mideast and Southeast Asia,(.....) Meanwhile in Gaza and the West Bank a leader of the Islamic militant Hamas group, which recently swept Palestinian parliamentary elections, told an Italian newspaper on Saturday that the cartoons were an "unforgivable insult" that should be punished by death.
"We should have killed all those who offend the Prophet and instead here we are, protesting peacefully," Mahmoud Zahar, a top leader of the militant Islamic group that won the January 25 Palestinian elections, told Italian daily Il Giornale.
"We should have killed them, we should have required just punishment for those who respect neither religion nor its holiest symbols," Zahar was quoted as saying.
The Norwegian Foreign
Minister Jonas Gahr Støre
Both the Norwegian and the Danish governments condemned Syria, Saturday, for failing to uphold its obligations by international law and in an interview with the Norwegian newspaper Verdens Gang (VG), the Norwegian Ambassador to Syria said that when the cartoons were re-published in newspapers all over Europe on Friday, he had expressed his concerns over the matter of the embassy security to Syrian authorities, but seemingly to no avail.
The Norwegian foreign minister Jonas Gahr Støre said in a press conference this evening that he had called his Syrian colleague Farouq al-Shara in Damascus and expressed the seriousness of the situation and added his great dissatisfaction with the performance of the Syrian security forces in protecting the Norwegian embassy. The Syrian foreign minister replied by apologizing the violation of Norwegian sovereignty and promised to find the perpetrators and bring them to justice.
The Syrian Foreign"Our preliminary reports indicates that both the buildings housing the Danish and the Norwegian embassies were set ablaze and burned to the ground",
Minister Farouq al-Shara
the foreign minister said, when asked about the conditions on the ground, but added that no embassy personnel were in the buildings at the time of the fire due to notifications of the demonstrations in advance. At the same time he expressed a great surprise over how the incident unfolded.
What seemed to be a peaceful demonstration was allowed to escalate into rampant vandalism by the torching of the Danish embassy, then the mob moved on towards the Norwegian embassy, covering a distance of about six kilometres (four miles) seemingly unhindered, and continued their rampage by torching this embassy too.
It has to be said though that the Syrian police managed to surround the building housing the embassy, but somehow the mob passed the barriers and managed to get into the building and do their ill deeds before the police were able to stop them.
What is puzzling by this whole affair though, is how a mob of this magnitude, in a security state like Syria, was allowed to move unhindered towards their second target a good six kilometres (4 miles) away, after torching the Danish embassy.
On Sunday, a demonstrations in Beirut of more than 15000 participants, against the publishing of the Muhammed cartoons by the Danish newspaper Jyllandsposten, turned violent and lead to the torching of another Scandinavian diplomatic mission, this time the Danish general consulate. The mob then turned their eyes on the Christian neighbourhood. The Lebanese authorities reported that many of the activists arrested by the police were foreigners, more specific, Syrians bussed into Lebanon from neighbouring Syrian towns and Palestinians residing in the country.
This article is also available at Bitsofnews.com.