[R-G] About 200, 000 in Leb. protest US attacks on holy sites, cities
ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Sat May 22 02:38:50 MDT 2004
Last Update: 22/05/2004 06:21
Over 200,000 rally against attacks on Iraq holy sites
By The Associated Press
BEIRUT - Tens of thousands of Shiite Muslims, mostly supporters of the
militant Hezbollah, turned out in Beirut Friday in a massive show meant
as a strong warning to the United States against attacking holy sites in
Wearing white shrouds symbolizing their readiness to die in defense of
the holy cities of Najaf and Karbala in southern Iraq, the
demonstrators, estimated at more than 200,000, shouted "Death to
America" and "Death to Israel" as they marched in Beirut's teeming
southern suburbs, a Hezbollah stronghold.
A protest march by about 5,000 Shiites in Bahrain led to clashes with
police in which at least three people were injured by shotgun pellets
and 10 treated for tear gas inhalation. Later Friday, the Bahraini king
fired the interior minister over the clashes, saying the demonstration
should have been allowed.
Also Friday, a small demonstration was held outside the British Embassy
in Tehran, Iran.
The Lebanon demonstration was in response to a call by Hezbollah leader
Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah earlier this week for "a symbolic demonstration
to tell America that we are ready for martyrdom to defend our holy
Nasrallah accused U.S. forces of desecrating holy shrines in Iraq, and
called on Muslims to fight to the death to defend the sanctities in
Najaf and Karbala.
U.S. soldiers have been fighting militiamen of the radical Shiite cleric
Muqtada al-Sadr in Najaf and Karbala during the past two weeks. During
last weekend's fighting, the golden dome of the Iman Ali mosque in Najaf
was lightly damaged, but it was not clear which side was responsible.
The Imam Ali mosque is the burial place of the Prophet Muhammad's cousin
and son-in-law, who is revered by Shiites.
Addressing the crowd at the end of the march, Nasrallah renewed his call
on the Americans to leave Najaf and Karbala, else the situation become
"We will not abandon our religious duty. Today's march is a step on the
road to defending the holy sites. Any other thing (fighting) decided by
our religious duty we will do without hesitation regardless of the
sacrifices and calculations," he said. "Let the Americans understand
that those who wore shrouds today, including clerics, men, women,
children and adults, did not come to show off."
The men beat their chests as they chanted slogans against the United
States and Israel. They shouted "Oh Hussein" and "Here we come, Hussein!
Here we come, Hussein."
They were referring to the Shiite saint Imam Hussein, a son of Imam Ali,
who is buried in a shrine in Karbala.
In Iran, where protests have been staged almost daily this week, about
200 protesters outside the British Embassy were outnumbered by 300
police. The crowd, some throwing stones and firecrackers, demanded that
the embassy be closed and the ambassador expelled.
"Down with Britain!" many yelled. "Down with Israel, UK, USA," read a
banner. Police shoved back against the advancing crowd, beating them
In downtown Amman, Jordan, around 1,000 worshippers representing
opposition parties held a one-hour sit-in in front of al-Husseini Mosque
to protest Arab silence on the Israel Defense Forces operation in Rafah,
in which at least 40 Palestinians have been killed.
The protesters carried red and green Jordanian and Palestinian flags.
They shouted the battle cry of "Allah Akbar," or God is great, "America,
America is the same, America is the head of the snake," and "Rabieh
needs to be purified," referring to the location of the Israeli Embassy
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