Violent protests against an anti-Islam film continued to shake the security of American diplomatic missions across the Muslim world Friday, as demonstrators stormed U.S. embassies in Tunisia and Sudan, and authorities in Egypt and Yemen fought back swarming attacks on attachés in those countries.
At least five Tunisians were injured after police fired bullets at an angry mob attempting to breach the embassy walls in Tunis. One protester was killed in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli in clashes with security forces, after a crowd of protesters set fire to a KFC and an Arby’s restaurant. Protesters hurled stones and glass at police in a melee that left 25 people wounded, 18 of them police.
In Khartoum, hundreds of protesters set trash fires in front of the German embassy before police scattered them with shots of tear gas. Reuters reported yet another protest at the U.S. embassy in the Sudanese capital, where a mob waved an Islamic flag atop a breached security wall.
Libyan authorities closed its airspace over Benghazi Friday after Islamists fired anti-aircraft missiles at U.S. reconnaissance drones scouring the area. The move prompted speculation U.S. special forces were planning a raid on Benghazi, the regional flashpoint for the current wave of unrest. The U.S. ambassador and three American staffers in the city were killed Tuesday after protestors attacked the U.S. consulate.
Protests were held in cities from Egypt to Pakistan after weekly Friday Muslim prayers, where many clerics in their mosques sermons denounced an obscure movie produced in the United States that denigrated the Prophet Muhammad. The spread of protests comes after attacks earlier this week on the U.S. embassies in Cairo and the Yemeni capital Sanaa.
After security forces earlier this week stood aside in the face of protesters, Yemen and Egypt made efforts Friday to contain them. In an apparent attempt to patch up strained ties with the United States, Egypt’s Islamist president, Mohammed Morsi, went on state TV and urged Muslims to protect foreign diplomatic missions — his most direct public move to contain protests.
In Sudan, a prominent sheik on state radio urged protesters to march on the German Embassy to protest alleged anti-Muslim graffiti on mosques in Berlin and then to the U.S. embassy to protest the film.
“America has long been an enemy to Islam and to Sudan,” Sheik Mohammed Jizouly said.
Soon after, several hundred Sudanese stormed into the German embassy, burning a car parked behind its gates and setting fire to trash cans. Protesters danced and celebrated around the burning barrels as palls of black smoke billowed into the sky.
Police firing tear gas drove the protesters out of the compound. Some then began to demonstrate outside the neighbouring British embassy, shouting slogans, while others left, apparently heading to the American embassy, which is outside of the capital.
In east Jerusalem, Israeli police stopped a crowd of around 400 Palestinians from marching on the U.S. consulate to protest the film. Demonstrators threw bottles and stones at police, who responded by firing stun grenades. Four protesters were arrested.
Security forces in Yemen shot live rounds in the air and fired tear gas at a crowd of around 2,000 protesters trying to march to the U.S. embassy in the capital, Sanaa. Though outnumbered by protesters, security forces were able to keep the crowd about a block away from the mission.
A day earlier, hundreds of protesters chanting “Death to America” stormed the embassy compound in Sanaa and burned the American flag. The embassy said nobody was harmed. Yemen’s president, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, quickly apologized to the United States and vowed to track down the culprits.
Many in the crowd then moved to join protesters who have been clashing for several days with police between Tahrir and the U.S. Embassy. “With our soul, our blood, we will avenge you, our Prophet,” they chanted as police fired volleys of tear gas.
“So I call on all to consider this, consider the law, and not attack embassies, consulates, diplomatic missions or Egyptian property that is private or public, “ he said.
He denounced the killing of the American ambassador in Libya. “This is something we reject and Islam rejects. To God, the attack on a person to Allah is bigger an attack on the Kaaba,” he said, referring to Islam’s holiest site in Mecca.
The movie, called “Innocence of Muslims,” ridicules the Prophet Muhammad, portraying him as a fraud, a womanizer and a child molester.
A prominent cleric in Indonesia has urged Muslims there to remain calm despite their anger about the film. But Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia, a branch of the international network that advocates a worldwide Islamic state, on its website blamed the U.S. government for allowing the film to be produced and released, calling it “an act of barbarism that cannot go unpunished.”
Additional reporting by Esam Mohamed in Tripoli, Ahmed Al-Haj in Sanaa, Yemen, Mohamed Osman in Khartoum, Elizabeth A. Kennedy in Beirut, Daniel Estrin in Jerusalem and Niniek Karmini in Jakarta, Indonesia.