Arab revulsion sparks wave of anti-U.S. protests WAR IN THE GULF

February 15, 1991|By Dan Fesperman | Dan Fesperman,Sun Staff Correspondent

AMMAN, Jordan -- The Arab world's slow burn of anti-American anger flared into rage, revulsion and sporadic violence yesterday, following Wednesday's U.S. bombing of a crowded air raid shelter in Baghdad.

Declarations of national mourning in Jordan, Tunisia and Algeria were accompanied by searing official condemnations of the attack, with Jordan's King Hussein likening the allied offensive to Italy's invasion of Ethiopia in 1935.

Sudan's foreign minister called the bombing "a hideous, bloody massacre," and Yemen's leading newspaper termed it "a butchery."

Jordanian outrage spilled into the streets of Amman, resulting in the stabbing of a German student who was mistaken for an American, the stoning of the U.S. and Egyptian embassies and the smashing of windows at a United Nations office.

Although the Iraqi government had already reported civilian casualties "in the thousands" from air attacks, the response to those claims was relatively subdued until Wednesday night, when television broadcasts showed the grisly aftermath of the morning attack on the bomb shelter.

The anger isn't likely to die down soon. Today, the sermons of the Islamic holy day will bring a new wave of impassioned denunciation in mosques, and news media coverage will focus on the continued unearthing of bodies and the funerals of the victims.

The vivid television images were what apparently drove a knife-wielding, 47-year-old Jordanian to run angrily from his house in search of a foreigner to stab, police said. Thinking he had spotted an American, the man entered a local cafe and stabbed a 28-year-old German, an Arabic studies student at Jordan University, police said.

The student was reported in fair condition. King Hussein, already in hot water with the United States for his denunciation of earlier bombings, wrote the president of the U.N. Security Council, calling for an immediate cease-fire. He cited his "deep sense of sadness, outrage and shock," and his government released an official condemnation of the attack as a "brutal massacre" and "barbaric act."

Similar sentiments were expressed in two demonstrations in Amman. In the larger one, several thousand people marched to a United Nations office in a fashionable neighborhood and smashed several windows before going home.

But the smaller protest, dominated by a few hundred women, was the more intense. It took place just outside the walls of the U.S. Embassy. The women, many sobbing and clad in black as they chanted and waved signs, hurled stones, shoes and clods of mud over the embassy walls, although the windows of the building are protected by a brick latticework. The women also splashed the outer wall of the embassy compound with red paint.

Their chants included calls for Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to "use the chemicals" in attacks on Tel Aviv, Israel, and when television cameramen moved in for a close-up, the women rushed toward the lenses to shove them away.

"You have no feelings," shouted one woman to a network camera crew, tears streaming down her face. "Go away, go away."

Later, the crowd moved 80 yards down the street to the Egyptian Embassy, and there the stones found their marks, breaking a few windows.

In Tunisia, where the government called the attack a "barbaric and flagrant violation of law," there were also several demonstrations in different parts of the country, although no violence was reported.

In Egypt and Syria, both of which are part of the U.S.-led militaralliance opposing Iraq, reactions were strikingly different.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said he deeply regretted the deaths but blamed Mr. Hussein for using Iraqi citizens to shield military targets.

Syria's state-owned Damascus radio also blamed Mr. Hussein, saying, "The recklessness, arrogance and stubbornness of the ruler of Baghdad prevented the avoiding of this catastrophe."

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