Anti-US protests flare upAgence France-Presse . Khartoum
Anti-US protests by crowds whipped into fury by a film that mocks Islam erupted across the Muslim world on Friday, as violence exploded in Sudan, Lebanon and Yemen leaving two people dead and dozens wounded.
The protests broke out when Muslims emerged from mosques following the weekly Friday main prayers to voice their anger at the film made in the United States, which ridicules the Prophet Mohammed and belittles the religion he founded.
In Khartoum, guards on the roof of the US embassy fired warning shots as a security perimeter was breached by dozens of Islamic flag-waving protesters, part of a crowd of thousands who had earlier stormed the British embassy and set fire to the German
mission, an AFP reporter said.
A police vehicle near the embassy was also torched as hundreds of demonstrators broke through an outer security cordon after one protester was hit by a police vehicle and killed, a medic and the reporter said.
Police had earlier fired volleys of tear gas in a bid to prevent the 10,000-strong crowd marching on the US embassy after they had swarmed over the German mission, attacking its facade and tearing down the flag to replace it with a black Islamist one before torching the building.
Violence also erupted in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli, where a crowd of 300 Islamists attacked and set fire to a KFC restaurant, sparking clashes with police in which one person died and 25 were injured, sources said.
The attack on the US fast-food chain’s outlet came as Pope Benedict XVI arrived in Lebanon for a three-day visit, calling for Christian-Muslim coexistence and attacking religious extremism.
With tempers boiling across the Muslim world over the movie since the US ambassador to Libya was killed in an attack on an American consulate in Benghazi on Tuesday, the Pentagon said it has sent a team of Marines to Yemen.
The announcement came as tension spiralled again in Yemen’s capital Sanaa, with security forces firing warning shots and water cannon to disperse crowds of protesters trying to reach the US embassy.
Yemeni security forces blocked all roads to the mission, after similar confrontations left four people dead on Thursday, an AFP reporter said.
With much of the anger directed at the United States, where the film was made reportedly by a Coptic Christian and promoted by a rightwing pastor, Washington had earlier ordered security boosted at its embassies worldwide.
In Cairo, where the first protests against the film broke out on Tuesday, protesters again clashed with police outside the US embassy, although calm returned later after the Muslim Brotherhood withdrew a call for nationwide demonstrations, saying it wanted to avoid loss of life and damage to property.
Instead of the tens of thousands who had been expected to take to the streets of the capital, a few hundred protesters carrying banners and Islamic flags walked around Tahrir Square, the epicentre of Egyptian protests.
The Brotherhood’s about-turn came after Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi said during a visit to Rome on Friday that the film is an ‘aggression’ on Islam that distracts from the real problems of the Middle East.
In Iran, meanwhile, thousands of people yelling ‘Death to America’ and ‘Death to Israel’ rallied in central Tehran.
State television showed the crowd streaming out after Friday prayers at Tehran University in which a hardline cleric, Ayatollah Ahmad Janati, blamed the United States for the crude film, ‘Innocence of Muslims,’ in which actors have strong American accents, which portrays Muslims as immoral and gratuitously violent.
‘It is a wonder how those running a country claiming to be a superpower become so stupid in taking such actions,’ he said.
‘In their recent lunacy, they have made a movie — whose finances are said to be paid by the Zionists — to insult the prophet,’ he said.
The crowd responded by chanting ‘Death to America.’
In Tunis, police fired tear gas and warning shots as more than 1,000 stone-throwing protesters gathered outside the US embassy.
A thick black plume of smoke was seen rising from the embassy car park, with a policeman telling AFP that some demonstrators had thrown petrol bombs.
Protests have spread across the Middle East and further afield, including to Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, Kashmir, Pakistan, Iraq, Israel and the Gaza Strip and Kuwait.
Violence also erupted in Asia, with police saying 86 people were arrested after attacking the US consulate in the Indian city of Chennai.
In Kabul, hundreds of Afghan protesters took to the streets, setting fire to an effigy of the US president Barack Obama and demanding the death of a film-maker who they say insulted the Prophet Mohammed.
US and Libyan officials, meanwhile, are probing Tuesday’s attack on the consulate in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi that killed the ambassador and three other US officials, amid growing speculation it was the work of extremist militants rather than just demonstrators.
Two of the four Americans killed in the assault were former members of the elite Navy SEALs officials identified as Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty. The harrowing attack also left Ambassador Chris Stevens and Sean Smith, an information management officer, dead.
Washington sought to keep a lid on the demonstrations by spelling out that the controversial film that set off the violence was made privately by a small group of individuals with no official backing.
The self-proclaimed producer of the film is Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, a 55-year-old Copt living in California. It was promoted on the websites of two other Americans, extremist Christian pastor Terry Jones and another Copt, Washington-based lawyer Morris Sadek.
Nakoula told American Arabic-language Radio Sawa that he had no regrets about making the film.
‘No, I do not regret it. I am saddened by the killing of the ambassador but I do not regret making it,’ he said on Thursday.
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