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Moroccans Protest Ahead of Powell Visit

April 08, 2002|From Reuters

RABAT, Morocco — Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets in the Islamic world on Sunday to protest Israel's offensive in the West Bank and against U.S. support for the Jewish state.

The biggest rally filled the main boulevards of the Moroccan capital, Rabat. "The five-hour pro-Palestinian march ended in a civilized manner. . . . First estimates put the number of protesters at at least half a million," a senior government official said.

"Sharon assassin! Bush his dog!" chanted veiled women and bearded men. "God is great! . . . We want jihad [holy war]!"

It was the first pro-Palestinian protest allowed by the Moroccan authorities since October 2000, and took place a few hours before the arrival of U.S. Secretary of State Colin L. Powell.

Political groups that organized the march claimed as many as a million took part, including political leaders such as Prime Minister Abderrahmane Youssoufi.

In Bahrain, thousands of people chanting "Death to America! Death to Israel!" joined a funeral procession for a 24-year-old Bahraini who died of injuries sustained during a violent pro-Palestinian rally at the U.S. Embassy on Friday.

"We call on the government to kick out the American ambassador," Abdul Amir Jamri, an influential Shiite Muslim cleric, told mourners setting off from the capital of Manama to the village of the dead man, Mohammed Jumaa Ahmed.

Women in black wept as youths carrying the coffin chanted: "There is no God but God! The U.S. is the enemy of God!"

Thousands of demonstrators, many Palestinian, marched throughout Lebanon. In the center of Beirut, about 3,000 supporters of the militant group Hamas gathered in front of a United Nations regional headquarters.

A similar demonstration organized by pro-Syrian Lebanese groups took place in Tripoli.

About 3,000 supporters of the Palestine Liberation Organization marched in Tyre, to the south.

Between 3,000 and 5,000 Indonesians, mostly from the Muslim-oriented Justice Party, gathered near the presidential palace in central Jakarta, the capital, and burned an effigy of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

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