14 Sep 2012

Western embassies attacked in Africa

The US embassy compound in Tunis and the German embassy in Khartoum are set alight as violence erupts over an anti-Islam film that has offended many Muslims. At least five protesters are dead.

Sudanese protesters smashed windows, cameras and furniture and set fire to the German embassy, pulling down an emblem to raise an Islamic flag. Local media reported one protester was hit and killed by a police car near the US embassy in Khartoum. Three others died in clashes in Tunisia and 28 were injured, and one man died in Lebanon amid reports that the death toll could climb in north Africa.

Basra protest

Police in Khartoum earlier tried to disperse protesters who had surrounded the German and neighbouring British embassy by firing volleys of teargas but no officers could be seen at the front gate after the storming. One witness said demonstrators set the German building ablaze and hoisted a black flag saying in white letters, saying: “There is no God but God and Mohammed is his prophet.”

“The embassy staff are safe at the moment,” German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said. The German building in Sudan was still in flames on Friday afternoon.

In Basra, thousands of Sunnis and Shi’ites gathered to protest against the film. Israeli and US flags were burnt during the protest (above).

Baghdad (Reuters)

Britain: serious concerns

The Foreign Office said no British embassy staff were injured and that Khartoum protesters did not attempt to gain access to the British building, which was largely empty because it was the weekend in Sudan.

“We have spoken to the Sudanese ambassador in London and raised our serious concerns that this attack was able to take place,” Foreign Secretary William Hague said. “It is the responsibility of the Sudanese authorities to ensure that effective protection is provided to diplomatic premises at all times.”

US authorities said protesters were ejected from their embassy in Khartoum after gaining access. President Barack Obama ordered a security review for US diplomatic facilities around the world.

Tunis embassy protest (Reuters)

Tunis attack

The situation in Tunis was equally tense late on Friday with protesters scaling the US embassy walls, setting fire to trees and smashing windows inside the compound. Local media said five protesters were wounded by police gunfire near the embassy. It was not clear whether police were using rubber bullets or live ammunition.

One witness described the scene as “a war zone”. Black smoke engulfed the compound according to news reports and a photo posted on Facebook by Karim Benamor of Radio Express. There were also reports that an American school within the compound was set on fire.

The US flag had been torn down at the Tunis embassy and replaced with a black flag as thousands of demonstrators surrounded the building.

American school fire (Reuters)
FIS in Algiers (Reuters)

In Algeria, the banned Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) shouted slogans and protested against the film (pictured, right). They carried banners with the message: “Islam nation, your prophet is insulted”.

In Syria the Free Syria Army was protesting in Binnish, near Idlib agains tAssad and the controversial film. The crowd waved flags (pictured) reading: “There is no God but Allah and Mohammad is the Prophet”.

US deny attacks are anti-American

Binnish, (Reuters)

The American government stressed on Friday that the worldwide demonstrations were not a protest against the US but a protest in response to a US-made film depicting the Prophet Mohammed. The White House said candidate Mitt Romney’s criticism of the response to attacks on US embassy compounds was factually wrong and an attempt to score political points.

“Now is a time when Americans should be coming together,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said in an afternoon news conference. Mr Carney denied news reports that the US had advance notice of an attack on its embassy in Libya on Tuesday.

“This is a fairly volitile situation,” Mr Carney said. “It is a repsonse to a video, a film that we have judged to be reprehensible and disgusting,” he added.

Worldwide protests

Protests in Cairo spread out to the streets beyond the immediate vicinity of the US embassy. Police fired weapons in the air and tried to disperse the crowd with tear gas. Earlier a group of young males opened a new front of clashes with the police force near Cairo’s Qasr al-Nil bridge.

In Yemen, security forces blocked streets surrounding the US embassy in Sanaa, firing water cannons and warning shots to disperse crowds protesting against a film they deemed blasphemous to Islam. Demonstrators stormed the heavily fortified compound and clashed with police for a second day. At least one person died and 15 were injured during Thursday’s demonstration.

Casablanca (Reuters)

In Casablanca, protestors outside the US Embassy called for “respect” and carried placards saying “Muslims, your prophet is outraged.”

“Deport the US ambassador! Death to America, death to Israel,” one sign read. Some burned the American flag while others called for the expulsion of the US envoy in Sanaa. US marines were sent in to beef up security.

About 100 protestors gathered outside the US embassy in London and burned the American flag on Friday but there were no immediate reports of violence.

Amman (Reuters)

In Jordan, members of the Islamist Salafis demonstrated near the US embassy in Amman (pictured, left).

Clinton: video is ‘disgusting

Thousands of angry Kashmiri Muslims in Srinagar, India burned US flags and called US President Barack Obama a `’terrorist,” while the top government cleric reportedly demanded Americans leave the volatile Indian-controlled region immediately. At least 15,000 people took part in more than two dozen protests across Kashmir, chanting `’Down with America” and `’Down with Israel” in some of the largest anti-American demonstrations against the film in Asia.

For many Muslims, any depiction of the Prophet is blasphemous and caricatures or other characterisations have in the past provoked violent protests across the Muslim world.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has denounced the “disgusting and reprehensible” video, but she added that the violence over its appearance on the internet was not justified.

“The United States government had absolutely nothing to do with this video,” she said. “We absolutely reject its content and message.”

Benghazi attack

The protests across the Middle East and Africa followed Tuesday night’s storming of the US Consulate and a safe house in Benghazi, Libya, in which the US ambassador and three other Americans were killed. President Barack Obama said the perpetrators would be tracked down and ordered two destroyers to head to the Libyan coast.

Tripoli (Reuters)

The Algerian website El Shorouq reported that in the last 48 hours the men who attacked the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya on Tuesday escaped to Turkey and Egypt, heading for Syria. The suspects, aware that US marines and the FBI are hunting for them, made a rapid departure, El Shorouq said.

Protesters blamed the US for the film, posted on YouTube under several titles, including “Innocence of Muslims”. Washington has condemned the film.

In all, demonstrations took place in at least 16 cities on Friday in Doha, Tunis, Gaza City, Tehran, Malaysia, India, Lebanon and beyond.

In the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli, protestors attacked a KFC and Hardees restaurant (pictured). View more images from the protests on Friday 14 Sept below.

Sale, Morocco (Reuters)
Peshawar (Reuters)
Nablus (Reuters)

Jerusalem (Reuters)
Istanbul (Reuters)
Gaza City (Reuters)
El Gorah (Reuters)