Latest developments in Middle East attacks, protests
(AP) — Here’s a look at protests across the Middle East on Thursday, three days after crowds angry over an anti-Muslim film began assaulting a string of U.S. embassies in the region.
Hundreds of protesters stormed the U.S. Embassy compound in the capital Sanaa, chanting “death to America,” setting tires ablaze, smashing windows and pelting the compound with rocks. They brought down the U.S. flag in the courtyard, burned it and replaced it with a black Islamic banner.
Yemeni security forces rushed to the scene, fired in the air and used tear gas to disperse the demonstrators. They were able to drive them out of the compound after about 45 minutes, sealing off the surrounding streets. Yemen’s president apologized to President Barack Obama for the attack that he said was aimed to derail Yemen’s close relations with Washington.
Protesters clashed with police near the U.S. Embassy in Cairo for the third day in a row. Police used tear gas to disperse the demonstrators and the two sides pelted each other with rocks. Sixteen protesters and 13 policemen were wounded in the clashes, which broke out overnight. Twelve protesters have been arrested, the Interior Ministry said.
Egypt’s Islamist President Mohammed Morsi vowed during a visit to Brussels not to allow attacks on foreign embassies in Cairo, saying the Egyptian people reject such “unlawful acts.”
The ruling Muslim Brotherhood called for demonstrations after Friday prayers to protest against the movie that ridicules Prophet Muhammad.
Hundreds of followers of the anti-American Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr demanded the closure of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad – the largest American diplomatic mission in the world – because of the film. Thousands marched in the Shiite stronghold of Sadr City in northeast Baghdad and shouted, “No, no, to Israel! No, no to America!” and “Yes, yes for Messenger of God.”
An Iran-backed Shiite militant group threatened U.S. interests in Iraq with its militia’s leader, Qais al-Khazali, telling the AP that the amateurish movie was unforgiveable. He called on all Muslims to “face our joint enemy.” An estimated 15,000 employees work at the U.S. embassy.
Large protests were expected in Baghdad and Iraq’s second largest city, Basra, after Friday prayers.
The government in Kabul has sought to avert protests, given that anger over perceived insults to Islam has triggered violence in the past. President Hamid Karzai canceled an official visit to Norway and spoke by phone with Obama to convey his condolences for the deaths of the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other diplomats. He also discussed the “film and the insulting of holy Islamic values.”
A Shiite cleric condemned the film during a sermon in a mosque west of Kabul. Sayyed Eisa Hossaini Mazari told about 200 worshippers in a mosque west of Kabul that a “dirty American made a movie and it was put on YouTube.” Mazari did not directly call for demonstrations in Afghanistan, but told the AP there will be protests if there is no “U.S. action against the movie.”
About 50 protesters gathered in Tehran outside the Swiss Embassy, which looks after U.S. diplomatic interests, shouting “Death to America” and condemning the film. The embassy is heavily guarded by riot police and there were no reports of violence.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei urged the United States to punish those who were involved in making and financing the film, calling it “a grave and unforgivable sin” and a “dirty crime.”
Authorities have called for protests after Friday prayers.
About 150 Muslim clerics and lawmakers from the ruling Hamas movement stage a protest outside the parliament building in Gaza City to condemn the film. They accused Israel and the West of stoking up sectarian tensions in the region and pitching Muslims against Christians.
Hamas and the smaller militant group Islamic Jihad are calling for large protests across Gaza on Friday.
Israeli police said they were stepping up security ahead of Friday prayers in Jerusalem. Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said that “tensions have been felt.” He said a larger number of officers would be deployed around Jerusalem’s Old City, where the Al-Aqsa mosque, Islam’s third-holiest site, is located.
Calls by several Muslim opposition groups for protests at the U.S. Embassy in the capital Amman went ignored. A banned extremist Islamic movement with links to al-Qaida called on its followers to attend a demonstration outside the American embassy compound after Friday prayers.