COPENHAGEN, Denmark – Groups of youths torched schools and cars in a sixth consecutive night of violence across Denmark, mostly in immigrant neighborhoods, police said Saturday. Forty-three people were arrested.
The spate of vandalism started last weekend and some believe it intensified with the reproduction of a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad in Danish newspapers Wednesday.
The unrest spread across Denmark, with youths torching dozens of cars and buildings and lobbing rocks at police and firefighters in Copenhagen, Aarhus, Ringsted, Slagelse and other cities, officials said.
"There's been a lot of vandalism — they've set fire to cars, garbage containers and in some cases buildings," Deputy National Police Commissioner Michael Hoejer said. "The good news is that we've made a lot of arrests."
Hoejer said most of those arrested were teenagers, and some have since been released.
Police said they were not sure what triggered the unrest. Some observers said immigrant youths were protesting against perceived police harassment, and suggested the reprinting of the cartoon may have aggravated the situation.
More than a dozen Danish newspapers on Wednesday reprinted a cartoon that sparked massive protests in Muslim countries two years ago — a gesture of solidarity after police revealed an alleged plot to kill the cartoonist.
The reproduction of the prophet cartoon sparked protests and anger in many Muslim countries since Islamic law generally opposes any depiction of the prophet, even favorable, for fear it could lead to idolatry.
On Friday, hundreds of protesters in Pakistan set fire to Danish flags and demanded the Danish ambassador's expulsion, while Bangladesh on Saturday condemned the decision to publish the cartoon.
"We fail to understand how hurting the sentiments of a billion Muslims can advance the cause of freedom of expression," the Foreign Ministry said. "It can only spur resentment that can be destabilizing."