Muslim, Arab voices urge calm over cartoon issue
BEIRUT, Lebanon -- Many Arab governments, Muslim religious leaders and newspapers have been calling for calm in the protests over the Prophet Muhammad cartoons, fearing the violence of the past weeks has only reinforced Islam's negative image in the West. No major demonstrations took place in Mideast and North African cities Thursday, suggesting the fervor was easing. But it wasn't clear whether the calm would last. A test may come after weekly Muslim prayers today, when at least one large protest is planned in Morocco. The drawings, first published in a Danish newspaper then reprinted in other European publications, sparked outrage across the Islamic world. Protests turned violent in recent weeks in Iran, Syria, Lebanon and Afghanistan. But many in the Middle East watched the stone-throwing, flag burnings and embassy attacks with sorrow. Some -- including governments, religious leaders and newspaper writers -- are trying to put on the brakes on the outrage, even if they feel Muslims are right to be angry.
BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Kidnapped American journalist Jill Carroll appeared in a video aired Thursday on a private Kuwaiti TV station, appealing in a calm, composed voice for her supporters to do whatever it takes to win her release "as quickly as possible." Carroll, wearing traditional Arab attire, said the date was Feb. 2, nearly a month after she was seized in Baghdad by armed men who killed her Iraqi translator. She was shown sitting on a chair in front of a wall with a large floral design. The 28-year-old freelance reporter for The Christian Science Monitor said she had sent one letter and was sending another to "prove I am with the mujahedeen." "I sent you a letter written by my hand, but you wanted more evidence," she said. "I am here. I am fine. Please just do whatever they want, give them whatever they want as quickly as possible. There is very short time. Please do it fast. That's all." The 22-second video was carried by Al Rai TV, a private Kuwaiti channel, and included audio, unlike two previous videos of Carroll that were broadcast by Al-Jazeera television.
HANGU, Pakistan -- A suicide bomber struck Thursday in Pakistan on the holiest festival for Shiite Muslims, triggering a riot that left a provincial town in flames and at least 27 people dead and more than 50 wounded. After the bombing, which appeared to be a sectarian attack, security forces battled enraged worshippers who torched shops and cars and took up positions on hills overlooking Hangu, where the sound of gunfire echoed through the smoky streets. In neighboring Afghanistan, hundreds of Shiites and Sunnis clashed in the city of Herat, hurling grenades and burning mosques. At least five people were killed and 51 wounded.
-- From wire reports