Afghans burn Bush orangutan effigy to protest US, Israel
Agence France-Presse
Published: Friday January 2, 2009

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KABUL (AFP) Thousands of Afghans demonstrated Friday against Israel's deadly strikes on the Gaza Strip, chanting slogans against the Jewish state and its US ally, and calling for the defence of Islam.

In the capital Kabul, up to 3,000 protesters gathered for several hours outside a key mosque where they shouted "Death to Israel", "Death to infidels" and Islamic chants such as "God is greater," an AFP reporter witnessed.

A shot was fired at an effigy of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and at a toy orangutan with sneakers hanging from its neck meant to represent US President George W. Bush, who had shoes thrown at him in Iraq last month.

The models were both torched as were flags of Israel, Britain and the United States.

The protesters also chanted slogans against the United States -- a key ally of Israel -- and said the more than 30,000 US troops in Afghanistan to help the government fight a Taliban-led insurgency should leave.

"We are here to demonstrate against Israelis who make Palestinians suffer," said 19-year-old Kabul student Mohammad Shafi. "We are here to defend Islam and the Koran."

The demonstration was billed as a spontaneous uprising by angry Afghans. But some in the crowd said they been told by mullahs at weekly prayers to attend, and did not appear to understand the Israeli-Palestinian issue.

In the western city of Herat, near the border with Iran, about 1,000 men and youngsters tore up an Israeli flag, torched banners and set alight a toy representing Israeli President Shimon Peres, an AFP reporter witnessed.

They also demanded a halt to the strikes that started a week ago in retaliation for rocket attacks by the Islamist group Hamas and which have killed more than 420 Palestinians.

"We think this is a war between Islam and infidels," local religious leader Farooq Hussaini told reporters, adding he was ready to send "mujahedeen", or religious fighters, as well as suicide attackers to support the Palestinians.

"We have announced jihad in Herat province against those who recognise Israel as a state and support them," he said, apparently referring to the mainly Western soldiers deployed in Afghanistan to fight the insurgency.

Several hundred people also demonstrated in the northern province of Badakhshan, provincial government spokesman Mahrouf Rasikh told AFP.

Afghanistan, which does not recognise Israel, has also condemned the attacks in Gaza and demanded an immediate halt to the strikes.

This video is from AFP, broadcast Jan. 2, 2008.

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