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US embassies on high alert as protests spread

The United States has put its embassies and consulates worldwide on high alert as protests against a US-made film mocking the Prophet Mohammed spread in the Muslim world.


The United States government has put all of its embassies and consulates around the world on high alert amid fears that demonstrations against a film mocking Islam could escalate in the Muslim world.

“Innocence of Muslims”, an excerpt of which was posted on YouTube, has triggered both small and mass protests in many countries including Egypt, Yemen and even Bangladesh.

On Tuesday, the anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, an assault on the US consulate in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi led to the deaths of four American citizens, including the US ambassador in the country.

Libyan authorities said Thursday that their investigation into the attack was making steady progress and that four suspects had been arrested. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and two former Navy seals identified as Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty were among the victims. It’s the first time a US ambassador had been killed since 1979.

With the demonstrations showing no sign of dying down, the US government has put its embassies and consulates overseas on high alert and several countries have reinforced security around US diplomatic missions.

Yemen embassy stormed

Hundreds of protesters stormed the US embassy in Yemen’s capital Sanaa on Thursday, breaking through the main gate of the heavily fortified compound before police drove them back using water cannons and firing warning shots. Local officials say at least one person died in the clashes between protesters and security forces.

Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi condemned the attack and announced an investigation into the unrest, a move US President Barack Obama later thanked him for.

The same day, Saudi Arabia, a close US ally, also spoke out against mounting anti-America protests, while simultaneously lambasting the film that triggered them.

"Saudi Arabia has expressed ... its condolences to the United States of America for the victims of violent actions in Libya that targeted the American consulate in Benghazi," state news agency SPA reported, citing a senior official.

The kingdom went on to criticise the “irresponsible” group that had made the film, but condemned “the violent reactions that occurred in a number of countries against American interests”.

Video ‘disgusting’ and ‘reprehensible’, says Clinton

Saudi Arabia’s comments came after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivered a statement in which she emphasised that the US government had no involvement with the offending video.

"To us, to me personally, this video is disgusting and reprehensible. It appears to have a deeply cynical purpose, to denigrate a great religion and to provoke rage," Clinton said. "The United States government had absolutely nothing to do with this video. We absolutely reject its content and message."

"There is no justification, none at all, for responding to this video with violence", she added.

On Thursday, Google announced it was withdrawing the controversial video from the YouTube platform in Libya and Egypt in order to prevent further protests. Earlier the Afghan government said it would ban the video-sharing website altogether.

By late Thursday the protests had spread to several countries, with scuffles reported outside the US embassies in Egypt, Tunisia and Sudan.

(FRANCE24 with wires)

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