(CBS/AP) Thousands of Iraqis took to the streets Monday to demand the release of a reporter who threw his shoes at President George W. Bush, as Arabs across many parts of the Middle East hailed the journalist as a hero and praised his insult as a proper send-off to the unpopular U.S. president.
The protests came as suicide bombers and gunmen targeted Iraqi police, U.S.-allied Sunni guards and civilians in a series of attacks Monday that killed at least 17 people and wounded more than a dozen others, officials said.
Journalist Muntadhar al-Zeidi, who was kidnapped by militants last year, was being held by Iraqi security Monday and interrogated about whether anybody paid him to throw his shoes at Mr. Bush during a press conference the previous day in Baghdad, said an Iraqi official.
He was also being tested for alcohol and drugs, and his shoes were being held as evidence, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.
Zeidi, 29, has been working as a correspondent for Iraq's Al-Baghdadiya TV since it launched in 2005, reports CBS News' Khaled Wassef in London. Co-workers describe him as a rather quiet and composed.
Showing the sole of your shoe to someone in the Arab world is a sign of extreme disrespect, and throwing your shoes is even worse. Iraqis whacked a statue of Saddam with their shoes after U.S. Marines toppled it to the ground following the 2003 invasion.