CAIRO, Egypt (AP) — Fury over an anti-Islam film spread across the Muslim world yesterday, with deadly clashes near Western embassies in Tunisia and Sudan, an American fast-food restaurant set ablaze in Lebanon, and international peacekeepers attacked in the Sinai despite an appeal for calm from Egypt’s Islamist president.
At least four people — all protesters — were killed and dozens were wounded in the demonstrations in more than 20 countries from the Middle East to Southeast Asia. Most were peaceful but they turned violent in several nations, presenting challenges for the leaders who came to power in the Arab Spring.
Security forces worked to rein in the anti-American crowds but appeared to struggle in doing so. Police in Cairo prevented stone-throwing protesters from getting near the US Embassy, firing tear gas and deploying armoured 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 yesterday’s violent demonstrations.
President Barack Obama said Washington would “stand fast” against attacks on US embassies around the world. He spoke at a sombre ceremony paying tribute to four Americans — including US Ambassador Chris Stevens — killed earlier this week when the US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, was stormed by militants who may have used protests of the anti-Muslim film to stage an assault on the 11th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks.
An elite Marine rapid response team arrived in Yemen’s capital of Saana, where local security forces shot live rounds in the air and fired tear gas at a crowd of an estimated 2,000 protesters who were kept about a block away from the US Embassy, which protesters broke into the day before.
In east Jerusalem, Israeli police stopped a crowd of about 400 Palestinians from marching on the US Consulate to protest the film. Demonstrators threw bottles and stones at police, who responded by firing stun grenades. Four protesters were arrested.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton had tried to pre-empt the violence a day earlier by saying the rage and violence aimed at American diplomatic missions was prompted by “an awful Internet video that we had nothing to do with”
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 US.