Syria Helped Orchestrate 2006 Mohammed Cartoon Riots, WikiLeaks Cables Reveal

The Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten reports that the Syrian government was active in organizing the riots that broke out in 2006 following the publication of controversial cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.

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The government of Syria was active in organizing the 2006 riots that erupted across the Arab world following the publication of controversial cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, Oslo daily Aftenposten reported Monday, quoting US diplomatic cables released by website WikiLeaks.

The cartoons were originally published in neighboring Denmark in 2005. Their publication resulted in violent protests, including attacks on several embassies in Damascus in early February 2006. Embassies targeted included those of Norway, Denmark and Sweden.

People walk past a poster of Syrian President Bashar Assad in Damascus, Syria May 15, 2010Credit: AP

A US diplomatic cable published by Aftenposten said the Syrian premier had, "several days before the demonstrations, instructed the Grand Mufti Sheikh Hassoun to issue a strongly worded directive to the imams delivering Friday sermons in the mosques of Damascus."

The riots ended when Syria "felt that 'the message had been delivered'," the cable said, quoting a Sunni sheikh whose name was blacked out.

The incident resulted in the evacuation of Norwegian diplomats and demands for compensation.

Aftenposten recently said it has gained access to the WikiLeaks cache of diplomatic cables, and was publishing them independently of the whistle-blower website.

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