The Muslim world was brewing with anger Thursday over the blasphemous anti-Islam movie made in the United States, considered offensive to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
Chanting “death to America” and “death to Israel,” thousands of protesters angered by the film stormed the U.S. Embassy compound in Yemen’s capital and burned the American flag on Thursday, the latest in a series of attacks on American diplomatic missions in the Middle East.
The string of assaults this week, in Yemen, Egypt and the storming of a U.S. consulate in Libya that killed four Americans, point to an increased boldness among Islamists who have become more powerful since last year’s wave of revolts toppled authoritarian leaders.
The anger over the movie denigrating Prophet of Islam has also put the region’s new leaders some of whom are themselves Islamists in a difficult corner, between a base demanding a free hand to respond to the insult and U.S. pressure to crack down. In the past, protests have broken out over perceived insults to Islam from the West, but in Arab countries they never escalated to the degree of breaching embassies.
Yemen’s president, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, quickly apologized to the U.S. for the embassy attack and vowed track down the culprits, just as Libya’s president did. President Morsi, who had been slow to speak out on Tuesday’s assault on the embassy in Cairo, promised Thursday that his government would not allow attacks on diplomatic missions.
While protesters in other countries were unarmed, a crowd bristling with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades overwhelmed the consulate in Benghazi late Tuesday, killing the ambassador and three other Americans.
Protests are also erupting in other countries. In Egypt, protesters clashed with riot police who had pushed them away from the embassy the night before.
In Iraq, several hundred protested in Baghdad’s Shia stronghold of Sadr City. The leader of a Shia militia group that previously attacked U.S. troops, Asaib Ahl al-Haq, threatened anti-U.S. attacks.
The movie “will put all the American interests in Iraq in danger,” the militia leader, Qais al-Khazali, was quoted as saying by the Associated Press.
US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton Thursday tried to distance the U.S. government from the movie, calling the film disgusting and reprehensible but also condemning violence in response to it.
The U.S. government has absolutely nothing to do with this video. We absolutely reject its content and messages, Clinton said. But there is no justification none at all for responding to this video with violence.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei however said on Thursday the main suspects behind the “crazy and hateful” making of the film were the American government and Zionism.
“If American politicians are honest in their claims that they were not involved, they have to hold responsible those who committed this obscene crime … and their financial supporters,” the official IRNA news agency quoted him as saying in a statement.
Parliament speaker Ali Larijani said the film, “Innocence of Muslims”, excerpts of which have been posted on the Internet, was “abhorrent” and showed that “U.S. politicians’ claims of supporting and respecting different cultures are … a blatant lie,” Press TV said on its website.
Elaewhere in the capital protesters shouted, “Death to America,” outside the Swiss Embassy, which looks after U.S. diplomatic interests in Iran. Riot police kept the crowd away from the building.
Protesters expressed support for demonstrators in Libya and Egypt, shouting slogans in praise of Prophet Muhammad, the report said.
In Sana hundreds converged on the U.S. Embassy, which is heavily barricaded because of past al-Qaida-linked attacks on the compound. Yemeni guards at checkpoints on roads leading up to the compound did nothing to stop the crowd, said Ahmed Darwish, a witness who was at the scene.
Inside the compound grounds, they brought down the American flag in the courtyard and replaced it with a black banner bearing Islam’s declaration of faith “There is no God but Allah.” They did not enter the main building housing the embassy’s offices, some distance away from the entry reception. Demonstrators set tires ablaze and pelted the compound with rocks.
Yemeni security forces who rushed to the scene fired in the air and used tear gas to disperse the demonstrators, driving them out of the compound after about 45 minutes and sealing off the surrounding streets.
The Embassy said nobody was harmed in the attack. “All embassy personnel are safe and accounted for,” spokesman Lou Fintor said.
Hadi, the president, offered his “sincere apologies” for the attack and promised to catch those behind it. He said the attack was carried out by a “rowdy crowd” as part of a conspiracy to derail Yemen’s close relations with Washington.
The assault appeared to be a copy-cat of the protest Tuesday night at the U.S Embassy in Cairo, when angry youths climbed the walls and brought down the flag, though they largely refrained from any material damage.
The spreading violence comes as outrage grows over a movie called “Innocence of Muslims” produced by anti-Islam campaigners in the U.S. that mocked Prophet. The amateurish video was produced in the U.S. and excerpted on YouTube.
Afghanistan’s government, meanwhile, sought to avert any protests as past anger over perceived insults to Islam has triggered violence in the country.
President Hamid Karzai canceled an official visit to Norway and spoke by phone with U.S. President Barack Obama to convey his condolences for the deaths of the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other diplomats, a statement said. He also discussed the “film and the insulting of holy Islamic values,” but the statement provided no other details. Agencies
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