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INDIA: Protest in Delhi over cartoons

Security tightened in diplomatic district as police fear targeting of Western offices

Friday, February 10, 2006

New Delhi --- The first major Indian protest over the cartoon isssue erupted on the streets of the capital New Delhi on Friday as thousands of Muslims chanted 'Denmark Die, Die!'

Demonstrators spilled out of the country's largest mosque after weekly prayers and spat on Danish flags and police were forced to tighten security in the city's diplomatic district.

Organisers said 15,000 joined the rally of black flag-carrying protesters who also blamed France, Norway and Germany for reprinting the Danish newspaper cartoons. Police estimated there were 3,000 protesters.

Ahmed Bukhari, imam of the 17th century Jama Masjid mosque, called on the Indian government to demand an apology from Copenhagen over the cartoons.

"For 1,400 years, Islam has fought its evil enemies and now it will not bow before the Satanic designs of France, Germany, Norway and Denmark," Imam Bukhari had told his Friday congregation.

"Islam and Muslims have been challenged and we will not rest unless nations that humiliated us are punished," he said as protesters set fire to a human-shaped effigy labelled 'Denmark'.

Police armed with rifles and teargas stood by.

The protesters spat on giant Danish flags spread on the ground before the 20,000-capacity mosque in the congested old quarter.

"Islam is under threat and we will give the last drop of our blood to protect our faith," shouted firebrand Islamic leader Noor Hussain from the Jama Masjid ramparts.

Bukhari called on Indian Muslims to launch a nationwide campaign against Denmark.

A convoy of vehicles carrying protesters was blocked at a police cordon amid fears that Western missions and interests would be targeted, security officials said.

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