Angry Syrian protesters set fire to the Danish and Norwegian embassies in Damascus Saturday. It was the most violent demonstration of anger to date over cartoons depicting the Muslim prophet Mohammad in western newspapers.

They came several thousand strong - carrying banners in praise of God and Islam.

It was supposed to be a peaceful demonstration. But, soon protestors began throwing stones at the Danish embassy building. They broke through the barricades and set fire to the building.

Similar scenes took place at the Norwegian embassy and police eventually used water cannons to disperse the crowds.

Police also used water hoses to disperse hundreds of protesters in front of the French embassy and riot police were stationed at the American diplomatic mission.

It was the most violent protest to date over the publication of a series of cartoons - one of which depicts the Muslim prophet Mohammad wearing a turban in the shape of a bomb.

The cartoons were first published in a Danish newspaper last September and later reprinted in a Norwegian newspaper. They have since been reprinted elsewhere in Europe and as far away as New Zealand by newspapers that say they are taking the action in defense of the right of the freedom of speech.

The cartoons have outraged Muslims, who say they defame their religion and are a sign of western disregard for the Muslim world.

Protests over the cartoons have taken place throughout the Middle East and other Islamic countries.

There were no reports of injuries in Saturday's protests in Damascus. Both Norway and Denmark have urged their citizens to leave Syria.