Hundreds of protesters storm the US embassy in Yemen chanting “death to America” and burning the American flag as protests against an anti-Islamic film spread across the Middle East and South Asia.
US embassy staff were being moved to safety after young demonstrators shouting “we redeem, Messenger of God” smashed windows of the security offices with stones and burned cars before breaking into the main gate of the compound in the Yemeni capital, Sanaa.
Reports suggested that one protester was shot dead by police, with security forces using tear gas, water cannon and live rounds fired into the air to disperse demonstrators. Whether anyone was inside the embassy at the time remains unclear.
The protests followed the killing of the US ambassador and three other members of staff at the American consulate in the Libyan capital, Benghazi, and two nights of unrest in Cairo as clashes erupted between demonstrators and Egyptian police.
The Yemeni protests were sparked by the release of the US-made film Innocence of Muslims which mocked the Prophet Mohammed, depicting him as a fraud, a womaniser and a madman in a cariacturish manner.
Authorities in Afghanistan have ordered the YouTube website to be shut down “indefinitely” to stop people watching it. Although YouTube has said it will not remove the film clip, it has blocked access to it in the countries where violence is spreading.
It is not yet known how the latest demonstrations began, although claims are emerging that Yemeni clerics called for a protest yesterday.
The protesters entered the compound after removing the embassy’s sign on the outer wall, setting tyres ablaze and pelting it with rocks.
Once inside the compound, they brought down the US flag, burned it and replaced it with the black banner bearing the Islamic declaration: “There is no god but Allah.”
“We entered through the embassy gates and broke the door,” one of the protesters said. “We raised the flag of the Messenger of Allah over the US embassy, and if they repeat this a second time, we enter a second time, until there are no ambassadors left in the Arab world – and no Americans either.”
Other protesters chanted “death to Israel.”
We entered through the embassy gates and broke the door. We raised the flag of the Messenger of Allah over the US embassy, and if they repeat this a second time, we enter a second time, until there are no ambassadors left in the Arab world – and no Americans either. Protester
A statement from Yemen’s embassy in Washington said that their government condemned the attack, and that security forces had restored order. Security is to be stopped up at all foreign missions.
“The government of Yemen will honour international obligations to ensure the safety of diplomats and will step up security presence around all foreign missions,” the statement said.
The protests echoed those held in other countries in the region and beyond. In the Iranian capital, Tehran, demonstrators chanting anti-US and anti-Israel slogans held a protest outside the Swiss embassy which represents US interests in the country.
In neighbouring Egypt, protesters threw stones at a police cordon around the US embassy in central Cairo after they had climbed into the embassy and torn down the American flag. The protests injured 224 people and took place as President Mohammed Morsi gave a televised address and pledged to protect foreigners in Egypt.
“Expressing opinion, freedom to protest and announcing positions is guaranteed,” President Morsi, the first freely elected president, said. “But without assaulting private or public property, diplomatic missions or embassies.”
In Israel, protestors gathered outside the US Embassy to express their discontent (pictured, right).
Unrest was also reported in Tunisia, Sudan, Morocco and Iraq, with a small protest in the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka.
Meanwhile, Libyan and American authorities have mounted investigations into the attack which killed US Ambassador J Christopher Stevens, who died of smoke inhalation following Tuesday’s attack.
Libya’s new Prime Minister Mustafa Abu Shagur said that there had been a “big advance” in the investigation. “Arrests have been made and more are under way as we speak,” he said.
Investigators are also considering the possibility that the Benghazi attack, in which a fire was started after the US consulate was stormed, was pre-planned to coincide with the anniversary of 9/11.
On 19 September Yemeni cleric Sheikh Abdul-Majid al-Zindani (pictured, right) made a statement to a conference of scientists in Sanaa condemning the film and and calling for the evacuation of US marines from Yemeni territory. The marines were deployed after the attack on the US Embassy.