TRIPOLI, Lebanon: One protester was killed and 15 policemen were injured when stick-wielding and stone-throwing demonstrators protesting an anti-Islam film clashed with Lebanese security in the northern city of Tripoli Friday.
The fatality was identified as Mohammad Ayyoushi.
Some 1,000 demonstrators marched from Tripoli’s Al-Mansouri Mosque to nearby Nour Square following Friday prayers, shouting slogans against the U.S. and Pope Benedict XVI, who began a three-day visit to Lebanon.
They tore down posters and banners welcoming the pope that had been put in place by Saad Hariri’s Future Movement.
The demonstrators ignored warning shots fired by police, and tried unsuccessfully to make their way to the Tripoli Serail, which is close to Nour Square, hurling stones at policemen blocking their path. Some demonstrators also beat policemen with wooden and steel sticks.
Finding themselves unable to storm the Serail, the protesters headed some 500 meters down the road to a KFC/Hardee's outlet, setting the establishment on fire. They also set four delivery mopeds ablaze.
KFC/Hardee's staff evacuated the premises during the commotion.
At one point, the demonstrators destroyed a police jeep near the fast food establishment and a still camera belonging to The Daily Star's Tripoli correspondent, Antoine Amrieh. They also confiscated the still camera of another photographer.
After setting KFC/Hardee’s alight, the demonstrators tried to do the same to a Burger King outlet. Lebanese Army troops intervened and prevented them from doing so.
Troops backed by half a dozen Armored Personnel Carriers quickly deployed in Tripoli and calm began to return to the city.
Meanwhile, in south Lebanon's Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp, thousands of Palestinian Islamists rallied in protest against the U.S.-made film, shouting slogans against the U.S. and President Barack Obama.
"Listen, listen Obama, we are all Osama," shouted the protesters, in reference to Osama Bin Laden. They waved flags bearing Islamic slogans and burned an effigy of the U.S. president.
A protest planned for Friday outside the Netherlands Embassy in Beirut did not take place.
Speaking to reporters Friday, U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon Maura Connelly said her country “had nothing to do with the disgusting movie that offends people of all faiths,” adding that governments everywhere should protect U.S. diplomatic missions.
“America has a history of religious tolerance and respect for religious beliefs that goes back to the founding of our nation,” Connelly said following her meeting with Prime Minister Najib Mikati at the Grand Serail.
She added that the U.S. is home to millions of Muslims and that the country rejected the denigration of religion.
“We also believe, however, that there is no justification for responding to this movie with violence. Islam respects the fundamental dignity of human beings and it violates that dignity to attack innocents,” she said.
The film depicts the Prophet Mohammad as a charlatan and a philanderer who authorized sexual abuse of children, among other nefarious acts. The film has caused outrage in several predominantly Muslim countries.
In Libya, angry demonstrators stormed the U.S. consulate in Benghazi earlier this week in an attack that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and four other American officials.
During her talk with reporters, Connelly decried attacks against diplomatic missions, adding that “governments everywhere have a responsibility to protect diplomatic missions.”
“We must not allow a tiny minority of people to provoke conflict among religions, countries, and cultures. All leaders must take a firm stand against violence, as Prime Minister Mikati and Foreign Minister Mansour have done today and as President Sleiman did yesterday,” she said.