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Threats by Militants Alarm Scandinavians

Denmark and Norway feel the backlash from cartoons of the prophet Muhammad in a Danish newspaper that offended some Muslims.

January 31, 2006|From Reuters

COPENHAGEN — Denmark warned its citizens Monday to avoid Saudi Arabia, and gunmen in the Gaza Strip said any Scandinavians there risked attack over newspaper cartoons of the prophet Muhammad.

Denmark's Jyllands-Posten newspaper, which published the cartoons, issued an apology late Monday in a statement to Arab countries sent to the Jordanian news agency Petra.

The drawings, some of which seemed to portray the prophet as a terrorist, were published in September, but the row erupted this month after diplomatic efforts to resolve the issue failed. One drawing shows Muhammad wearing a turban shaped as a bomb.

Some Muslims, who deem images of the prophet disrespectful and caricatures blasphemous, have threatened Danes and demanded an apology.

"The drawings are not against the Danish law but have indisputably insulted many Muslims, for which we shall apologize," the newspaper said in the statement.

An Iraqi militant group called Monday for attacks on Danish and Norwegian targets, according to an Internet statement attributed to the Mujahedin Army. A Norwegian paper also has run the drawings.

The statement called on fighters to "hit whatever targets possible belonging to these two countries and others that follow their steps."

The statement could not be authenticated.

Denmark has about 530 troops serving in Iraq.

As the diplomatic and economic fallout has spread, Saudi Arabia has recalled its envoy from Denmark and its religious leaders have called for a boycott of Danish products.

Across the Persian Gulf, several supermarkets pulled Scandinavian foods off the shelves after consumers complained.

Sudan said it had told a Danish government minister that he could not make a planned visit and that it had called for a boycott of Danish goods.

Libya has closed its Copenhagen embassy, and thousands of Palestinians marched in protest Monday.

Denmark's Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen welcomed the paper's apology but noted: "Independent media are not edited by the government."

The Danish Foreign Ministry advised against nonessential travel to Saudi Arabia and urged Danes to be cautious in other Muslim countries.

The Danish Red Cross said it had pulled two employees out of Gaza and one from Yemen, and Norway's Foreign Ministry said two Norwegian aid workers in Gaza were planning to leave Monday.

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