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Protesters in Beirut Set Fire to Danish Consulate


Demonstrators set fire to a building housing the Danish Consulate in the Lebanese capital, destroying much of the building, amid protests over the publication in a number of European countries of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed.

Hundreds of angry young demonstrators, armed with pipes, sticks and metal rods, torched the building housing the Danish consulate in Beirut's normally quiet, Christian suburb of Ashrafiyah.

Billowing clouds of smoke poured into the air, as fire leaped out of the building, housing the Danish consulate, as well as the Austrian Embassy, while harried firefighters worked to douse the flames.

Police and Lebanese Army troops also fired tear gas into the air to try to disperse the rioters, while some Islamic religious leaders attempted to calm the crowd.

Grand Mufti Sheikh Mohamed Rashid Kabbani, the country's top Islamic-law expert, appealed for calm.

"We call on our citizens to calm down." He said, "Some are using this opportunity to destroy Lebanon again."

Lebanese member of parliament Samir Frangieh, who is close to Prime Minister Fouad Sinioura, accused Syria of fomenting the disorder, to bring chaos to Lebanon and compromise the country's independence.

Dozens of buses lined Beirut's city center, after reportedly shuttling thousands of demonstrators to Beirut from across Lebanon.

Ambulance sirens could be heard into the early afternoon, ferrying a number of casualties to local hospitals.

A church near the building housing the Danish Consulate also suffered damage. A number of residents of the area reportedly fled, as well, after mistaken reports that residential buildings were also being attacked.

Saturday, unruly crowds in neighboring Syria, set fire to the Danish and Norwegian consulates.

Demonstrators across the Arab and Islamic world have been engaged in daily protests over a series of cartoons caricaturing the Prophet Mohammed, which have been published in a number of European newspapers.

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