Kathmandu, Sept. 1: “Down with Islam” on their lips, protesters today attacked a Kathmandu mosque and Muslim properties in retaliation against the killing of 12 Nepalis by an Iraqi militant group.
Hundreds of people poured into the streets last night after television pictures showed the murders of the Nepalis yesterday but violence erupted this morning as rampaging mobs launched a string of attacks, forcing the government to clamp curfew at 2 pm.
Two persons were killed in police firing.
Protesters stormed the city’s main mosque, set furniture and carpets on fire and tore up a copy of the Quran, before the police drove them out.
“Demonstrators entered the mosque, threw stones and partially damaged it,” said police official Binod Singh. “They tried to set the building on fire but police intervened and prevented them.”
Hundreds gathered at city landmarks and burnt tyres to disrupt traffic. The offices of Moonlight Consultancy Pvt. Ltd, which had sent the slain Nepalis to Jordan, were ransacked even as the government cancelled its licence for illegal despatch of citizens to Iraq. Nepal does not allow its nationals to go and work in Iraq because of security risk.
The demonstrators targeted business establishments owned by Muslims. Among them was Spacetime Network, which runs Kathmandu’s biggest cable network, apart from a Nepali newspaper and satellite channel. After the attack, the cable network, which beams almost 60 channels including several that are Indian, went off the air. A mob ransacked the office of Nepal’s biggest media house, Kantipur Publications.
King Gyanendra urged people of different faiths to stay calm in a nation already torn by a Maoist revolt. “We must ensure this tragic incident does not weaken the age-old fraternal ties, unity and mutual tolerance that exist among the Nepalese people,” the palace said.
About 3.5 per cent of Nepal’s 27 million people are Muslim, but the country has no significant history of anti-Muslim protests or riots.
Protesters shouted “Down with Islam”, “Long live the memories of the 12 Nepalis”, and called for the government to resign. The Nepalis had gone to work in Iraq as cooks and cleaners for a Jordanian firm.
Crowds burst into the offices of Pakistan International Airlines, Saudi Arabian Airlines and Qatar Airways, smashing windows and taking papers and furniture on to the street to burn.
Clashes with the police also erupted outside the Egyptian embassy as a group ransacked the adjoining offices of a recruitment company.
For much of the day, the capital lay under a pall of smoke from burning tyres. The fires were kept going by crowds that brought out logs and firewood.
The government announced national mourning tomorrow in memory of the dead.
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and announced a compensation of Rs 1 million each to the families of the victims.
Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba convened an emergency meeting of his council of ministers, addressing the nation soon after to appeal to the people to maintain social harmony.