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Demonstrators in Mideast Cities Protest US Military Action in Afghanistan - 2001-10-12

Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets in various cities in the Middle East to protest the U.S. military campaign in Afghanistan. Many more thronged to mosques for Friday prayers throughout the region and heard anti-American sermons.

Several thousand Palestinians staged anti-American demonstrations in the West Bank Friday, including in Ramallah and Nablus. Many chanted their support for Osama bin Laden and vented their anger against U.S. President Bush, describing him as the "father of terrorism."

The Palestinian Authority has clamped down on anti-American demonstrations and earlier this week sent out police to quell one such protest in Gaza. Two Palestinian youths were killed in the incident. Palestinian police have also clamped down on media coverage of protests, at times barring journalists from entering protest areas.

Tens of thousands of protesters, including some government ministers, took to the streets in Iran. In Tehran, marchers carried placards denouncing the U.S. action as terrorism. Others declared their willingness to join a holy war, or jihad, against the United States and its allies. The Iranian government has denounced terrorism, but is also critical of the American action. But Iran has also helped supply weapons to the anti-Taleban Northern Alliance in Afghanistan.

There was heavy police presence in Cairo as about 5,000 people demonstrated after Friday prayers at the city's Al-Azhar mosque. In Lebanon, several thousand people took to the streets in the northern city of Tripoli to denounce what they called the U.S. "aggression."

Muslims across the region thronged to mosques and heard anti-American sermons. In Saudi Arabia, prayers were held in support of Afghans and to denounce the "enemies of Islam," but they made no direct mention of the U.S. and British attacks. In the Syrian capital, Damascus, an imam denounced terrorism, but said that terrorism cannot be fought by waging wars that destroy cities and kill women and children.

The Associated Press reports that in one mosque in Baghdad, the imam and worshippers broke down in tears. The imam spoke of a crusade against Muslims, led by America. He also accused the United States and Britain of playing games as they destroy cities and kill people.

The United States and its allies have repeatedly stressed that the attacks are not against the Afghan people or Islam, but rather against suspected terrorist Osama bin Laden, his al-Qaida network, and the Taleban rulers of Afghanistan who harbor him and his supporters.