Malawian Muslims loot US charity, churches

By Raphael Tenthani

Blantyre, Malawi - Rioting Malawian Muslims, angered by the arrest and extradition of five al-Qaeda suspects, have vandalised and looted a United States charity and several churches, after smashing the offices of a moderate Muslim organisation.

The riots began with protests by the Muslims against their own government for handing over the five suspects to US authorities, according to official sources.

On Friday night after prayers about 200 Muslims held violent demonstrations in Malawi's commercial capital, Blantyre, and then vandalised the office of the Muslim Association of Malawi.

Police fired teargas to disperse them. Malawi's President Bakili Muluzi is a Muslim but the demonstrators accused his government of surrendering its sovereignty to the US by allowing it to remove the five suspects, despite a court order to the contrary.

Later on Friday night the rioting spread to the southern lakeshore resort district of Mangochi where most Muslims live.

The rioters vandalised the office of the charity organisation, Save the Children USA, and at least five churches and hurt three people, said police Inspector-General Joseph Aironi, himself a Muslim.

Medical staff at Mangochi District Hospital said three people were injured during the violence. - Independent Foreign Service

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