Egypt Salafists honor bin Laden with death prayer

CAIRO Fri May 6, 2011 12:30pm EDT

CAIRO (Reuters) - Hundreds of Islamist Salafists defied security forces and held special prayers Friday for al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, killed in a U.S. raid in Pakistan this week.

Some Islamists regard Saudi-born bin Laden, who was inspired by Egyptian militants, as a martyr.

"We will pray, we will pray," some 200 men chanted as police tried to stop the special prayers at the Salafist-run al-Nour Mosque in the Abbasiyah quarter of Cairo after regular Friday noon prayers.

Salafists call for a fundamentalist version of Islam based on that practiced by its earliest followers.

Police stood by as the worshippers held the funeral "prayer for the absent," which is performed for people whose bodies are not present at the mosque.

Analysts said the small number of attendees reflected how little support Islamist militants enjoy among Egyptians.

Some of the worshippers marched toward the heavily guarded U.S. embassy in central Cairo, marched around Tahrir (Liberation) Square, scene of mass demonstrations that toppled President Hosni Mubarak in February, and then dispersed.

Some demonstrators described bin Laden as a holy warrior.

"Bin Laden exchanged the pleasures of this life for those of the afterlife," said Abdel-Mutaleb Said, a 51-year-old engineer as he marched toward the U.S. embassy.

Najeh Mahmoud Nour, an accountant in his early 50s, said he supported bin Laden because of the double standards the United States practiced against Arabs and Muslims.

"Why does the United States implement international law against the Arabs and not against Israel?" Nour said.

(Writing by Sami Aboudi, editing by Mark Trevelyan)

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