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Anti-film protests grip Sri Lanka amid T20 series

25 September, 2012

COLOMBO/MANILA: Sri Lanka's police barricaded the US embassy in Colombo for the second time in four days on Monday as thousands of Muslims gathered to denounce the anti-Islam film.

An estimated 20,000 people carrying anti-US and anti-Semitic placards marched towards the embassy during heightened security for the World Twenty20 cricket tournament hosted by Sri Lanka.

A ruling party stalwart, Alavi Maulana, was seen among the Muslims taking part in the orderly and peaceful demonstration that blocked traffic for several hours. "Dear Muslims around the world, stop purchasing Jewish products such as Coca Cola, KFC, McDonald's, Pepsi, Fanta, Pizza Hut, YouTube, D and G etc," read a banner carried by protesters.

"Who is behind the film? Jews," said another anti-semitic placard carried by the demonstrators.

The anti-Islam film has been produced by Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, reportedly a 55-year-old Egyptian Copt and convicted fraudster, based in Los Angeles and currently out on parole.

The US government has also denounced the anti-Islam film that has triggered violent protests around the world since 9/11.

Sri Lanka, mainly a Buddhist country, has a small minority of Muslims among its 20 million population.

Separately, thousands of people marched through the Nigerian city of Kaduna in the latest protest.

The protests over the film in Africa's most populous nation have been free of violence and Monday's rally ended with no reports of unrest.

Men, women and children were among the demonstrators who carried banners that read "Death to America" and "Death to Israel".

American flags were burned and dragged through the dusty streets of the northern city along with those of Britain and Israel.

The film has stirred outrage across the Islamic world, with protests reported in more than 20 countries and over 50 people killed in attacks or demonstrations.

In Nigeria, where roughly half of the country's 160 million people are Muslim, a pro-Iranian Shia group called the Islamic Movement of Nigeria has organised major demonstrations in three key cities.

"We are holding this protest to express our outrage over the movie that blasphemed Islam," said Mukhtar Sahabi, a protest organiser and member of the movement, which was established in Nigeria in the late 1970s.

Tens of thousands of people demonstrated in Kano on Saturday, Nigeria's second city, stomping on American flags and burning pictures of US President Barack Obama.

Meanwhile, hundreds of Muslims in the Philippines protested before the US embassy on Monday, calling for a ban on the anti-Islam film.

About 300 protesters waved placards saying, "Freedom of religion prevails over freedom of expression" and "No to US double standard" during the brief rally that last just a few minutes.

Rally leader Khan Sharif said the protesters wanted the US government to block the film, which was made in the United States, from the Internet.

Protest leaders also said they would file a petition before the Philippine Supreme Court asking for local authorities to ban the movie from being posted on the Internet.


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