* Violent protests in Afghan capital
* Embassies in Kabul under lockdown
* Protests earlier in Britain, Turkey and Pakistan
* Libya politician: "group with agenda" attacked consulate
By Mirwais Harooni
KABUL, Sept 17 Thousands of protesters took to
the streets of the Afghan capital on Monday, setting fire to
cars and shouting "death to America", the latest in
demonstrations that have swept the Muslim world against a film
mocking the Prophet Mohammad.
Western embassies across the Muslim world are on high alert
and the United States has urged vigilance after days of
anti-American violence provoked by the film.
"There were between 3,000 and 4,000 demonstrators. They
burned some police cars, but we could split them up and prevent
the insecurity widening," Lieutenant-General Fahem Qayem, police
quick reaction force commander, told Reuters in Kabul.
Embassies in Kabul's heavily guarded central zone were
placed on lockdown, including the U.S and British missions,
after violence flared near fortified housing compounds for
foreign workers in the city's volatile eastern suburbs.
"We will defend our prophet until we have blood across our
bodies. We will not let anyone insult him," said protester Jan
Agha Pashtun, giving what was apparently a false name to avoid
police retaliation. "Americans will pay for their dishonour."
It was the latest in a week of violent protests fanned by
anger over a video, posted on the Internet under several titles
including "Innocence of Muslims", that mocked the Prophet
Mohammad and portrayed him as a womaniser and a fool.
The head of Libya's national assembly said an attack on the
U.S. consulate in Benghazi that killed Ambassador Christopher
Stevens and three other Americans last Tuesday looked like a
planned assault by a "group with an agenda" rather than a
spontaneous reaction to the video posted online.
With protests against the film continuing from London to
Lahore on Sunday, Western diplomatic missions were on edge.
Germany followed the U.S. lead and withdrew some staff from its
embassy in Sudan, which was stormed on Friday.
The United States ordered non-essential staff and family
members to leave its embassy on Saturday after the Khartoum
government turned down a U.S. request to send Marines to bolster
Non-essential U.S. personnel have also been withdrawn from
Tunisia, and Washington urged U.S. citizens to leave the capital
Tunis after the embassy there was targeted on Friday.
About 350 people chanted slogans at a rally outside the U.S.
embassy in London on Sunday. A small group of protesters burned
a U.S. flag outside the embassy in the Turkish capital, and in
Pakistan there were protests in more than a dozen cities.
The head of Shi'ite militant group Hezbollah called for
protests in Beirut this week.
"Those responsible for the film, starting with the U.S.,
must be held accountable," Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said. "All
these developments are being orchestrated by U.S. intelligence."
"AGENDA FOR REVENGE"
The violence is the most serious wave of anti-American
protests in the Muslim world since the start of the Arab Spring
revolts last year. At least nine people were killed in protests
in several countries on Friday.
The crisis presents U.S. President Barack Obama with a
foreign policy headache as November elections approach.
Some U.S. officials have suggested the Benghazi attack was
planned by Islamist militants using the video as a pretext, a
hypothesis endorsed by Mohammed Magarief, the president of
Libya's national assembly.
"Call it whatever you want, al Qaeda or not, what happened
was an act by a group with an agenda for revenge. They chose a
specific time, technique and certain victims. This is what it
was all about," Magarief told Reuters in an interview.
However, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Susan
Rice, said on Sunday talk shows that preliminary information
indicated that the attack was not pre-meditated.
"There's no question, as we've seen in the past with things
like 'The Satanic Verses', with the cartoon of the Prophet
Mohammad, there have been such things that have sparked outrage
and anger and this has been the proximate cause of what we've
seen," she said.
U.S. FORCES DEPLOYED
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said at the weekend he
hoped the worst of the violence was over but U.S. missions must
remain on guard.
"It would appear that there is some levelling off on the
violence that we thought might take place," he told reporters on
his plane en route to Asia on Saturday.
"Having said that, these demonstrations are likely to
continue over the next few days, if not longer."
The United States has deployed a significant force in the
Middle East to deal with any contingencies and rapid deployment
teams were ready to respond to incidents, he said.
The foreign minister of Egypt, where hundreds of people were
arrested in four days of clashes, assured Secretary of State
Hillary Clinton that U.S. diplomatic grounds would be protected.
Mohamed Kamel Amr told Clinton in a telephone call that the
film was designed to incite racial hatred and was therefore
"contradictory with laws aimed at developing relationships of
peace and mutual understanding between nations and states".