(AFP) – Sep 24, 2012
COLOMBO — Sri Lanka's police barricaded the US embassy in Colombo for the second time in four days on Monday as thousands of Muslims gathered to denounce an anti-Islam film which has sparked protests worldwide.
An estimated 20,000 people carrying anti-US and anti-Semitic placards marched towards the embassy during heightened security for the World Twenty20 cricket tournament hosted by Sri Lanka.
A ruling party stalwart, Alavi Moulana, was seen among the Muslims taking part in the orderly and peaceful demonstration that blocked traffic for several hours.
"Dear Muslims around the world, stop purchasing Jewish products such as Coca Cola, KFC, McDonald's, Pepsi, Fanta, Pizza Hut, You Tube, D and G etc," said a banner carried by protesters.
"Who is behind the film? Jews," said another anti-semitic placard carried by the demonstrators.
The anti-Islam film has been produced by, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, reportedly a 55-year-old Egyptian Copt and convicted fraudster, based in Los Angeles and currently out on parole.
The US government has also denounced the anti-Islam film, "Innocence of Muslims" that has triggered violent protests around the world since September 11.
Sri Lanka, mainly a Buddhist country, has a small minority of Muslims among its 20 million population.
Government-backed activists had staged a similar demonstration outside the US embassy earlier this year protesting Washington's move to pass a resolution against Colombo at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
Housing Minister Wimal Weerawansa stepped up an anti-US drive by calling for a boycott of US products and services, including the Google search engine.
The US has called for investigations into alleged killings of thousands of civilians in the final phase of Sri Lanka's Tamil separatist war in 2009, but Colombo has insisted that there were no rights abuses by its troops.
On Monday, police blocked the road opposite the US embassy which also leads to several hotels where foreign cricket teams are staying.
President Mahinda Rajapakse's tightly-guarded residence is also in the same neighbourhood.
Monday's demonstrators held a prayer session outside the US embassy barricades before dispersing peacefully. There was a smaller protest there on Friday.
A top official involved in providing security for visiting cricket teams said they were closely monitoring anti-Western demonstrations, but there were no signs of any violence.
"Most of the protesters had been bussed in from the provinces today. It is not a violent crowd and we don't see any threat to the teams or the match venues," the official said asking not to be named.
Sri Lanka is providing tight security to the 11 foreign teams taking part in the World Twenty20 tournament which opened on September 18 and ends on October 7 with the finals played in Colombo.
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