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Malawi Muslims Riot Over Alleged Extraditions
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Advanced World - ReutersMalawi Muslims Riot Over Alleged ExtraditionsFri Jun 27, 6:05 PM ET Add World - Reuters to My Yahoo!
By Denis Mzembe
BLANTYRE, Malawi (Reuters) - Police in Malawi fired tear gas Friday to disperse hundreds of Muslims protesting against the arrest and alleged extradition this week of five suspected members of al Qaeda.
Angry demonstrators in the resort district of Mangochi burned down offices of the global "Save the Children" charity and a Catholic church, while others attacked the offices of the Muslim Association of Malawi in Blantyre, police said.
No one was seriously hurt in the protests, which were fueled by anger over unconfirmed reports that U.S. security officials whisked the five suspects out of the country earlier this week, with the approval of Malawian authorities.
Malawian Muslims were also angered by news that High Court Justice Frank Kapanda had overturned an injunction lawyers for the five detainees won blocking their deportation -- seen as a strike against al Qaeda ahead of President Bush (news - web sites)'s visit to Africa next month.
"We are so angry, especially with (President Bakili) Muluzi -- who should be the first person to protect Muslims," said Amir Juma, a Muslim businessman in his 30s. Muluzi is a Muslim.
Malawian officials say U.S. security personnel took the five men -- two Turkish, one Saudi, one Kenyan and one Sudanese -- out of the country Tuesday before they could appear in court.
Malawi is a small landlocked southern African country of 10.6 million people with a sizeable Muslim minority.
It has never been seen as having terrorist links.
MAM public relations officer Saiti Jambo told Reuters that irate Muslims ran amok in the organization's offices -- smashing windows and burning furniture, computers and vehicles -- after they failed to gain access to its chairman, Sheik Omar Wochi.
"Sheik Wochi was not in the office and this angered them," Jambo said. "We watched helplessly as they decided to vent their anger on the offices."
The Muslims chanted anti-government slogans, accusing their government of relinquishing its sovereignty by succumbing to pressure from the U.S. government. They also accused their association of failing to protect fellow Muslims.
The U.S. embassy in Malawi initially denied U.S. involvement but has not responded to media inquiries since Tuesday.
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