SANAA – Protests against an anti-Islam film made in the US are spreading across the Middle East, North Africa and other parts of the world.
The shooting came as protesters, chanting “O, messenger of Allah... O, Mohammed (PBUH),” launched a second charge on the complex which they had stormed earlier but were ejected by the security forces.
President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi apologised to his US counterpart Barack Obama and the American people for the acts of a “mob” and ordered a probe. “Those who are behind (the attack) are a mob that are not aware of the far-reaching plots of Zionist forces, especially those who made a blasphemous film,” said Hadi.
Some protesters said they saw three vehicles being torched by some of the demonstrators after they gained access to the compound through an unguarded security gate.
After being evicted from the complex on their first assault, protesters retreated about 100 metres from the gate, gathering near a checkpoint where they chanted anti-Jewish slogans.
“O, Jews: Khaybar, Khaybar. The army of Mohammed (PBUH) will return,” they chanted evoking a 7th century war in the west of the Arabian Peninsula in which the Muslims are said to have defeated the Jews. They then launched a second bid to access the compound, prompting police to fire on the crowd, witnesses said.
The violent protests in Sanaa come two days after four Americans, including the ambassador, were killed when a Libyan mob attacked the US consulate in Benghazi, and protesters in Cairo tore down the Stars and Stripes and replaced it with a black flag.
US President Barack Obama called the leaders of Egypt and Libya to discuss security cooperation following the violence in Cairo and Benghazi, the White House said Thursday.
Obama urged Egypt to uphold its commitments to protect US diplomats and called on Libya to work with US authorities to bring those behind the deadly attack on the US consulate, which killed the US ambassador, to justice.
Libya has made several arrests over an attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, the deputy interior minister told AFP on Thursday. “The interior and justice ministries have begun their investigations and evidence gathering and some people have been arrested,” Wanis al-Sharif said.
Initial reports said that Ambassador Chris Stevens and the three other Americans were killed by a mob outside the consulate as they tried to flee an angry protest.
But it is now believed Stevens died from smoke inhalation after becoming trapped in the compound when suspected militants fired on the building with rocket-propelled grenades and set it ablaze.
On Thursday, protesters were back outside the US mission in Cairo. Police used teargas as they clashed with a stone- and bottle-throwing crowd. Armoured vehicles were deployed around the mission, an AFP correspondent reported.
Egypt’s President Mohammed Mursi condemned the offence caused by the US-produced movie but warned against resorting to violence. “We Egyptians reject any kind of assault or insult against our Prophet (PBUH). I condemn and oppose all who... insult our Prophet (PBUH),” he said in remarks broadcast by state television. “(But) it is our duty to protect our guests and visitors from abroad,” Mursi said. “I call on everyone to take that into consideration, not to violate Egyptian law... not to assault embassies.”
Afghanistan’s leader has put off a foreign trip for fear of violence at home over the film, officials said Thursday, as anxious governments across Asia stepped up security outside US embassies.
Indonesia joined Afghanistan in demanding that YouTube block the film. Indonesian authorities are also working with Internet service providers to block access to the film, Communications and Information Ministry spokesman Gatot Dewa Broto told AFP.
India issued an alert to security forces deployed outside US diplomatic missions. “We have ordered security officers to be vigilant, to prevent any untoward actions taking place,” home ministry spokesman Kuldeep Singh Dhatwalia said.
“It goes without saying that we are obviously concerned about all internal and international implications in case something happens. So we are taking extra precautions, it is a pre-emptive effort,” he said.
In Bangladesh, authorities deployed more armed police at the US and other embassies.
The US embassy in Kuala Lumpur, capital of Muslim-majority Malaysia, urged Americans to avoid large crowds and noted the potential for unrest around Friday prayers.
The Philippines, a largely Catholic nation that is home to extremist group the Abu Sayyaf, said police commandos had been guarding the US embassy in Manila round the clock since the unrest in Libya and Egypt broke out.
In Tunis, hundreds of Salafists who demonstrated outside the US embassy were dispersed by police firing teargas, and protesters also rallied in several areas of Iraq including Baghdad.
In Tehran, a protest was held near the Swiss embassy, which handles US interests in the absence of American-Iranian diplomatic ties, in a peaceful two-hour demonstration at which “Death to America!” was chanted.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia on Thursday condemned the release of an anti-Islam movie and the deadly attacks against US missions over the film.
The kingdom “condemned the violent reactions in several countries against US interests,” the official news agency SPA said, and “the production by an irresponsible group in the United States of a film.”
Saudi Arabia “offers its condolences to the United States on the victims of the violence that targeted the US consulate in (the Libyan city of) Benghazi,” it said. The kingdom also “affirms its rejection of all acts that insult religions and religious symbols.”
Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Thursday condemned the film which has sparked violent Middle East protests, stressing the US government had nothing to do with it.
“To us, to me personally, this video is disgusting and reprehensible. It appears to have a deeply cynical purpose, to denigrate a great religion and to provoke rage,” Clinton said.
“The United States government had absolutely nothing to do with this video. We absolutely reject its content and message.”
The top US diplomat also reiterated: “There is no justification, none at all, for responding to this video with violence.”
Condemning the violence, Clinton said at the launch of a strategic dialogue between the United States and Morocco that all “leaders in government, leaders in civil society or religious leaders must draw the line at violence.”
“Any responsible leader should be standing up now and drawing that line,” she added. “It is especially wrong for violence to be directed against diplomatic missions. These are places whose very purpose is peaceful to promote better understanding across countries and cultures.
“All governments have a responsibility to protect those spaces and people. Because to attack an embassy is to attack the idea that we can work together to build understanding and a better future.”
Addressing complaints that America did nothing to stop such videos and anti-Islamic messages ever seeing the light of day, Clinton upheld the US Constitution and the First Amendment guaranteeing the freedom of speech.
“Our country does have a long tradition of free expression, which is enshrined in our constitution and in our law,” she said.
“We do not stop individual citizens from expressing their views no matter how distasteful they may be.
“There are of course different views around the world about the outer limits of free speech and free expression. But there should be no debate about the simple proposition that violence in response to speech is not acceptable.”
Meanwhile, several hundred Palestinians in the Gaza Strip protested on Thursday against an anti-Muslim film.
The protest, called by the ruling Hamas government’s ministry of religious endowments, comes after two days of demonstrations that have left four US embassy staff including the ambassador dead in Libya and a protester shot dead in Yemen.
Ismail Radwan, Hamas’s minister of religious endowments, called on the protesters gathered outside the legislative council building in Gaza City to “boycott American products.”
In Tel Aviv, around 60 Arab-Israeli protesters demonstrated outside the US embassy, in a protest called by the Islamic Movement in Israel. “We came to protest against the producers of this movie and the United States which allowed it to be made,” protester Zahi Nijidat told AFP.
Demonstrators chanted slogans against US President Barack Obama and criticised the film.
US missions on alert as anti-Islam film protests spread