Violence explodes as film protests spread

2012-09-14 18:42
Protesters run as police open fire into the air near the US Embassy in Yemen. (AP, File)

Protesters run as police open fire into the air near the US Embassy in Yemen. (AP, File)

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Cairo - Angry demonstrations against an anti-Islam film spread to their widest extent yet around the Middle East and other Muslim countries on Friday, as protesters smashed into the German Embassy in the Sudanese capital and security forces in Egypt and Yemen fired tear gas and clashed with protesters to keep them away from US embassies.

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 furious melee that left 25 people wounded, 18 of them police.

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 US Embassies in Cairo and the Yemeni capital Sana’a and on a US consulate in Libya, where the ambassador and three other Americans were killed.

Constraint

After security forces earlier this week stood aside in the face of protesters, Yemen and Egypt made efforts on 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 US 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.

Israel, Yemen

In east Jerusalem, Israeli police stopped a crowd of around 400 Palestinians from marching on the US 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 US Embassy in the capital, Sana'a. 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 Sana’a and burned the American flag. The embassy said nobody was harmed. Yemen's president, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, quickly apologised to the United States and vowed to track down the culprits.

Egypt

In Egypt, several hundred protesters massed in Cairo's Tahrir Square after weekly Muslim Friday prayers and tore up an American flag, waving a black, Islamist flag.

A firebrand ultraconservative Salafi cleric blasted the film and in his sermon in Cairo's Tahrir Square said it was upon Muslims to defend Islam and its prophet.

Many in the crowd then moved to join protesters who have been clashing for several days with police between Tahrir and the US Embassy. "With our soul, our blood, we will avenge you, our Prophet," they chanted as police fired volleys of tear gas.

Ahead of the clashes, the president spoke for more than seven minutes on state TV, saying, "It is required by our religion to protect our guests and their homes and places of work".

"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.

Calls for peace

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.

His own Muslim Brotherhood group called for peaceful protests in Tahrir to denounce the film.

The movie, called "Innocence of Muslims," ridicules the Prophet Muhammad, portraying him as a fraud, a womanizer and a child molester.

A small, peaceful demonstration was held on Friday outside the US Embassy in the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur.

Indonesia

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 US government for allowing the film to be produced and released, calling it "an act of barbarism that cannot go unpunished".

Meanwhile, a Libyan airport official said all flights to and from the eastern city of Benghazi were cancelled due to security concerns. The nearest airport is 200km away. The airport official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to release the information.

Benghazi is where the attack on the US consulate took place on Tuesday.

- AP
Read more on:    benghazi attack  |  religion  |  prophet protests
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