Cairo: Fuming over an anti-Islam film - "Innocence of Muslims" - depicting Prophet Muhammad as a fraud and womanizer, Muslims across the world, staged anti-US protests on Friday with Western embassies in Tunisia and Sudan being raided, and similar violent attacks in Lebanon, Yemen and Egypt.
The indignation over the anti-Muslim film that started in Cairo on Wednesday with protesters scaling the US embassy walls and burning the American flag, went on to spread contagiously to other nations like Libya (where US ambassador along with 4 American colleagues was killed), Tunisis, Sudan, Pakistan and Lebanon.
Tunisian security forces outside the US Embassy in Tunis struggled hard to rein in the protesters who rained stones on police firing tear gas and shooting into the air. Some protesters scaled the embassy wall and stood on top of it, planting the Islamist flag.
Yesterday, an American fast-food restaurant was set on fire in Lebanon, and international peacekeepers were attacked in the Sinai.
Protests in over 20 nations from Middle East to Southeast Asia were peaceful mostly but turned violent in several nations, presenting challenges for the leaders who came to power in the Arab Spring.
Security forces struggled to keep at bay the huge anti-American crowds who resorted to stone-throwing at the US Embassy in Cairo.
Police fired tear gas and deploying armored vehicles in a fourth day of clashes in the Egyptian capital. One person died there after being shot by rubber bullets.
The State Department said US Embassy personnel were reported to be safe in Tunisia, Sudan and Yemen — sites of Friday's violent demonstrations.
Condemning the attacks on US Embassies, President Barack Obama said Washington would "stand fast" against attacks around the world.
Yemen's capital of Saana witnessed a crowd of over 2,000 protesters trying to barge into the US Embassy. The local security forces shot live rounds in the air and fired tear gas at a crowd.
In east Jerusalem, Israeli police stopped a crowd of about 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.
Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi went on national TV and appealed to Muslims not to attack embassies. It was his first public move to restrain protesters after days of near silence and appeared aimed at easing tensions with the United States.
The United Nations Security Council released a press statement late Friday condemning "in the strongest terms" the violence, saying "the very nature of diplomatic premises is peaceful and ... diplomats have among their core functions the promotion of better understanding across countries and cultures."
The heaviest violence came in Khartoum, Sudan, where 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.
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the press, said it appeared the attack was connected to the wider protests in the region.
One protester was killed in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli in clashes with security forces after a crowd set fire to a KFC and a Hardee's restaurant. Protesters hurled stones and glass at police in a furious melee that left 25 people injured, 18 of them police.
In his bid to head off the violence, Egypt's Morsi said "it is required by our religion to protect our guests and their homes and places of work."
He called the killing of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens in Libya unacceptable in Islam. "To God, attacking a person is bigger than an attack on the Kaaba," he said, referring to Islam's holiest site in Mecca.
Morsi's speech came after Obama spoke with him by telephone. The Obama administration has been angered by Morsi's slow response to the attack Tuesday night on the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, and the Egyptian made little more than vague statements about it for days without an outright condemnation of the security breach, in which police did nothing to stop protesters from climbing the embassy walls.
His silence reflected the heavy pressure that Morsi, a longtime figure from the Muslim Brotherhood, faces from Egypt's powerful ultraconservative Islamists. They are using the film issue to boost their own political prominence while challenging Morsi's religious credentials.
Leaders of Egypt's Jihad group, a former militant organization, held a conference in the Egyptian city of Alexandria and said anyone involved in "defamation" of the prophet should be killed. They called on Morsi to cut relations with U.S.
Soldiers opened fire to drive away young Muslims in the central Nigerian city of Jos, witnesses and authorities said, and demonstrators in the county's Muslim north burned a U.S. flag.
Hundreds of hard-line Muslims held peaceful protests against the film throughout Pakistan, shouting slogans and carrying banners criticizing the U.S. and those involved in the film. Police in Islamabad set up barricades and razor wire to prevent protesters from getting to the diplomatic enclave, where the U.S. Embassy and many other foreign missions are located.
About 1,500 protesters in Afghanistan's eastern city of Jalalabad shouted "Death to America" and urged President Hamid Karzai to cut relations with the U.S.
With Agency Inputs
First Published: Saturday, September 15, 2012, 09:42