A black Islamic flag is flying over the U.S. embassy in Tunisia after it was stormed by a mob of protesters today – as anger at an American-made anti-Islam film resulted in chaos across the world.
Symbols of America and U.S. embassies have been targeted around the globe in a fourth day of protest after Tuesday’s deadly raid on the American consulate in Libya.
In Tunisian capital Tunis, a mob overran the U.S. embassy compound, scaling the walls and setting fire to cars before tearing down the Stars and Stripes and replacing it with the symbol of Islam.
No U.S. staff were in the embassy in the city, where an American school has also been set on fire.
A large cloud of black smoke rose around the U.S. embassy as stone-throwing protesters and police waged a pitched battle.
Thousands of demonstrators massed outside the embassy and several were seen climbing the outer wall of the embassy grounds and raising a flag on which was written the Muslim profession of faith.
The protesters chanted ‘Obama, Obama, we are all Osamas’.
One protester was seen throwing a computer out of a window, while others walked away with telephones and computers.
Police responded by firing tear gas, live rounds killing two protesters and wounding 28.
A group of several dozen protesters briefly managed to enter the embassy compound and set fire to cars in an embassy parking lot. They were pushed back outside by police and special forces who continued to arrive on the scene.
It was the worst incident in clashes around the world – with angry protesters ransacking a KFC and Hardee’s restaurant in Lebanon, police firing on protesters in Yemen, and unrest in Syria, Iraq, Pakistan, Turkey and Jerusalem.
In London, an American flag was burned outside the U.S. embassy by protesters
One protester was killed in Lebanon and twenty five wounded by police who opened fire as they cracked down on the mob who turned their anger on the American fast food chains.
A KFC in the northern city of Tripoli was set alight after the mob – many wearing face masks- ransacked the interior.
In Sudan, the American embassy was also attacked and smoke could be seen rising from the compound. Officials said a mob had been expelled from the compound with one protester killed.
A spokesman said protesters had been ejected from the embassay in Sudan, adding ‘they didn’t get far’.
Elsewhere, police have fired on protesters outside the US embassy in Yemen today as a group of 2,000 attempted to march on the compound.
It also emerged that Libya had closed its air space over Benghazi airport temporarily because of heavy anti-aircraft fire by Islamists aiming at U.S. reconnaissance drones flying over the city, after President Barack Obama vowed to bring the ambassador’s killers to justice.
It adds to unrest in Bangladesh where tens of thousands have taken to the streets, and India – where there are widespread protests in Muslim Kashmir.
In Egypt‘s contested Sinai region, a mob stormed an international peacekeeping base injuring two Colombian troops while troops fired on protesters in Nigeria.
Protesters clashed with police near the U.S. embassy in Cairo. Two Islamist preachers in Egypt told worshippers that those who made the movie deserved to die under Islamic law but they urged protesters not to take their anger out on diplomats.
Sudanese police were reportedly fighting back up to five thousand protesters who had gathered outside the building in the North African country’s capital Khartoum. It is unclear how many staff were inside the mission, or whether they are all accounted for.
The same group have already stormed inside and set fire to the German embassy next door, before tearing down its national flag and hoisting the Islamic banner.
A spokesperson for the British Foreign Office said: ‘We can confirm that there is a protest outside the British embassy and Sudanese police are on scene.’
Since a 14-minute trailer for the movie, called The Innocence of Muslims, was posted on YouTube by its American producers, turmoil has spread across the Muslim world.
Protests have erupted in a string of countries across the Middle East and Africa, including Egypt, Lebanon, Qatar, Bangladesh, Kashmir, Pakistan, Bahrain, Palestine – as well as the Sudan.
Across the border, thousands of Egyptian protesters advanced on the US embassy near Tahrir Square in Cairo – in scenes potently reminiscent of the violent clashes that ravaged the city’s streets during the Arab uprising last year.
Hurling stones and shouting slogans at the phalanx of heavily-armed riot police that stood in their way, returning fire with volleys of tear gas and rubber bullets in a bid to keep the oncoming crowds at bay.
As the violence continued throughout the day, Egypt’s president Hosni Mubarak appealed for calm on live television, a day after Barack Obama issued a veiled warning to the region’s leaders to quell the violence and protect America’s embassies.
The Egyptian authorities had erected large concrete blocks to block the route to the embassy and deployed hundreds of police.
‘Before the police, we were attacked by Obama,’ shouted one demonstrator, blaming U.S. President Barack Obama and the U.S. government for insulting the Prophet.
One banner held aloft by demonstrators read: ‘It is the duty of all Muslims and Christians to kill Morris Sadek and Sam Bacile and everyone who participated in the film.’
Several demonstrators – some bearded Islamists wearing traditional gallabiya robes and others youths and young men in T-shirts and jeans – waved green and black flags with Koranic verses on them.
The unrest has raised serious questions over whether the US should cut the billions of dollars in aid it sends to Egypt.
Barack Obama has already issued a veiled warning of possible repercussions if those governments do not quell the unrest and protect America’s embassies.
On the subject of Egypt, which the US currently supplies over $1.5billion in aid, he told Telemundo: ‘I don’t think that we would consider them an ally, but we don’t consider them an enemy.
‘They’re a new government that is trying to find its way. They were democratically elected. I think that we are going to have to see how they respond to this incident.’
And in an ominous sign this morning, the Libyan government closed the air space above Benghazi ‘for security measures’.
In the Lebanese city of Tripoli, hundreds of protesters set fire to a branch of Kentucky Fried Chicken, while chanting: ‘No More insults to Islam.’
There, one demonstrator was killed and two others were wounded as they tried to storm a government building.
In Bangladeshi capital Dhaka, around 10,000 Muslims from half a dozen Islamist groups staged a noisy protest, burning and trampling American flags while chanting anti-US slogans.
Yesterday, thousands of demonstrators engaged in running street battles with police in Egyptian capital Cairo, burning cars and hurling stones while an angry mob stormed the American consulate in Sanaa, in Yemen.
In Libyan capital Benghazi, a similar demonstration was reportedly hijacked by heavily-armed Muslim extremists resulting in the deaths of several Libyan security guards.
America is still reeling from an attack on Tuesday that saw a hoard of protesters storm the US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, killing the ambassador and three American security guards.
Despite the belief that the militants who hit the consulate did so separately from the protests over the film, US officials are deeply concerned that extremists may again take advantage of non-violent demonstrations to copycat the Benghazi raid.
Meanwhile, a top Israeli Arab Knesset official Talab el-Sana warned of ‘Armageddon’ if the United Nations does not intervene, telling The Times of Israel: ‘If the UN does not mobilize to stop this erosion, it will be Armageddon.’
Egypt’s ruling Muslim Brotherhood have called for demonstrations after Friday prayers as did authorities in Iran and the Gaza strip.
Large protests were also expected in Baghdad and Iraq’s second-largest city, Basra, as well as Amman, Jordan. Israel was stepping up security in anticipation of demonstrations after Muslim prayers.
‘It is important to note that as these protests are taking place in different countries around the world, responding to the movie, that Friday, tomorrow, has historically been a day when there are protests in the Muslim world,’ White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters in Colorado.
‘And we are watching very closely for developments that could lead to more protests. We anticipate that they may continue.’
The offending short video behind the unrest was made by an American company and spoofs the life and times of the Prophet Muhammad.
But the White house was quick yesterday to condemn its content and its anonymous makers.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton delivered an explicit denunciation of the video as the administration sought to pre-empt further turmoil at its embassies and consulates.
‘The United States government had absolutely nothing to do with this video,’ she said before a meeting with the foreign minister of Morocco at the State Department. ‘We absolutely reject its content and message.’
‘To us, to me personally, this video is disgusting and reprehensible,’ Clinton said. ‘It appears to have a deeply cynical purpose: to denigrate a great religion and to provoke rage.’
While rejecting the content of the video, Clinton stressed that no matter how offensive it is, the film cannot be used as an excuse for violence like that seen in Egypt, where a mob breached the walls of the US Embassy in Cairo on Wednesday, and in Yemen, where demonstrators tried to storm the embassy compound in Sanaa on Thursday.
‘There is no justification, none at all, for responding to this video with violence,’ Clinton said.
‘We condemn the violence that has resulted in the strongest terms. … 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.’
She then reminded foreign governments that they have a responsibility to protect embassies.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon followed suit, adding: ‘The hateful film that appears to have been deliberately designed to sow bigotry and bloodshed.’
The intelligence leading up to the attacks will be examined to ‘see if there was any way of forecasting this violence,’ as in any violent incident, House Intelligence Committee member Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said in an interview Thursday.
But he said the focus now ‘has to be on finding out who is responsible and bringing them to justice.’
US officials said they suspect that the attack at the Benghazi consulate, which had also been the target of an unsuccessful attack in June, may have been only tangentially related to the film.
They also stressed there had been no advance warning or intelligence to suggest a threat in Libya that would warrant boosting security, even on the 11th anniversary of the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
‘As we did with all of our missions overseas, in advance of the September 11 anniversary and as we do every year, we did evaluate the threat stream and we determined that the security at Benghazi was appropriate for what we knew,’ State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.
President Barack Obama, speaking a campaign event in Golden, Colorado, also vowed that the perpetrators would be punished.
‘I want people around the world to hear me,’ he said. ‘To all those who would do us harm: No act of terror will go unpunished. I will not dim the light of the values that we proudly present to the rest of the world. No act of violence shakes the resolve of the United States of America.’
As of Thursday morning, there was no intelligence indicating that what happened in Benghazi was planned, according to two U.S. officials briefed on the investigation into the attack. Intelligence officials said they believe it’s more likely that the attack was ‘opportunistic or spontaneous,’ with militants taking advantage of the demonstration to launch the assault.
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