| Afghan protesters in Kabul. (Reuters)
Kabul, Feb. 8 (Reuters): Muslim protests against cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammad claimed three more lives today when Afghan police fired at a crowd trying to storm a US military base.
The latest deaths in the town of Qalat, in southern Zabul province, brought the total number of Afghans who have been killed this week during protests to 10. Twenty others were injured in today’s clash.
Afghanistan’s top religious council called for an end to the protests saying people would use the disturbances for purposes of sabotage.
Tens of thousands of Muslims have demonstrated in West Asia, Asia and Africa over the drawings, first published in Denmark, then Norway and several other European countries.
Police in Qalat at first fired in the air to disperse about 600 protesters after they hurled stones at police and set alight a police vehicle, provincial police chief Nasim Mullahkhel said.
Some protesters then tried to attack a nearby US military base and police fired to stop them, Mullahkhel said. “So far, we’ve received three dead bodies and 20 wounded,” said Zahir Shah, a doctor at Qalat’s main hospital. Seven policemen were wounded, Mullahkhel said.
The 12 cartoonists whose work touched off the firestorm were reported to be in hiding, frightened and under police guard. Iran’s best-selling newspaper launched a competition to find the best Holocaust cartoon.
The French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo reprinted cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad today and published one of its own on its front page, further angering Muslim groups which say the caricatures are blasphemous.
The weekly’s front page carried the new cartoon depicting the Prophet Mohammad burying his face in his hands and saying: “It’s hard to be loved by fools.”
President Jacques Chirac condemned “overt provocations” which could enflame passions.
“Anything that can hurt the convictions of someone else, in particular religious convictions, should be avoided,” Chirac said.
Egypt and Saudi Arabia ' seen as the most religiously influential countries throughout the Arab world with large Sunni population ' have not witnessed violent protests.