Crowds trash mosque in Nepal to protest slayings in Iraq
Binaj Gurubacharya, Associated Press
September 2, 2004 NEPAL0902
KATMANDU, NEPAL -- Nepal's government imposed an indefinite curfew and appealed for calm Wednesday after thousands of demonstrators ransacked a mosque and clashed with police in the capital to protest the slaying of 12 Nepalese hostages by Iraqi militants.
Police fired on a group that gathered in downtown Katmandu despite the ban, killing one man, an official said. Another man was killed and three were wounded when police fired to break up a mob trying to storm the Egyptian Embassy before the curfew was imposed, the Interior Ministry said.
"We want revenge," protesters shouted as they stormed the Jame mosque -- the only Muslim house of worship in the capital. They broke windows and set fire to carpets, furniture and parts of the building. No one was inside at the time. Police fired tear gas in an unsuccessful attempt to disperse the mob.
Protesters also attacked the offices of at least two dozen agencies that send workers abroad, as well as the offices of Saudi Arabian Airlines and Qatar Airways. They smashed windows and threw papers and furniture on to the street to burn.
Hours after the rioting broke out, the government imposed an indefinite curfew and warned that violators would be shot on sight. Army helicopters hovered over Katmandu while soldiers patrolled the streets.
There is no history of significant anti-Muslim protests or riots in Nepal, which is overwhelmingly Hindu but has a small Muslim minority. King Gyanendra urged people to stay calm.
"We must ensure this tragic incident does not weaken the age-old fraternal ties, unity and mutual tolerance that exists among the Nepalese people," the royal palace said.
By early evening, the city was quiet.
A gruesome video posted on a Web site Tuesday showed militants slitting the neck of one Nepalese worker and shooting 11 others. The 12 contract workers had disappeared soon after entering Iraq from Jordan on Aug. 19.
Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba said the government was trying to locate their bodies so they could be shipped home.
The protesters accused the government of not doing enough to secure the release of the victims. Deuba, however, said the government tried its best to get the hostages freed through the media and diplomatic channels.
The government said the families of the victims would receive 1 million rupees (about $14,400) each, and it declared today a day of mourning, saying offices and schools would be closed.