* American embassies targeted in day of rage
* Obama vows to "stand fast" as consulate dead return
* Sudanese protesters storm German and British embassies
* Egyptian demonstrators clash with police
* Protests span Malaysia, Bangladesh and Yemen
By Ulf Laessing and Tarek Amara
KHARTOUM/TUNIS, Sept 14 Fury about a film that
insults the Prophet Mohammad tore across the Middle East after
weekly prayers on Friday with protesters attacking U.S.
embassies and burning American flags as the Pentagon rushed to
bolster security at its missions.
At least seven people were killed as local police struggled
to repel assaults after weekly Muslim prayers in Tunisia and
Sudan, while there was new violence in Egypt and Yemen and
across the Muslim world, driven by emotions ranging from piety
to anger at Western power to frustrations with local leaders and
A Taliban attack on a base in Afghanistan that killed two
Americans may also have been timed to coincide with protests.
But three days after the amateurish film of obscure origin
triggered an attack on the U.S. consulate in the Libyan city of
Benghazi that killed the ambassador and three other Americans on
Sept. 11, President Barack Obama led a ceremony to honour the
returning dead and vowed to "stand fast" against the violence.
"The United States will never retreat from the world," said
Obama, who in seeking re-election must defend his record on
protecting U.S. interests, both at embassies and more widely in
a region where last year's Arab Spring revolts overthrew
pro-Western autocrats to the benefit of once-oppressed
For a third day, television pictures of flames licking
around embassy compounds and masked youths exchanging rocks for
teargas from riot police were the dominant images of Arab
attitudes to Washington. Most diplomatic staff were absent, as
most of the region marked the weekend.
But bullets flew. In Tunis, at least two people were killed
and 29 were wounded, the government said, after police gunfire
near the U.S. embassy in the North African city that was the
model for last year's pro-democracy revolutions.
Counting on Washington for economic aid, Tunisian President
Moncef Marzouki condemned what he called "an attack on the
embassy of a friendly nation".
Three died, too, in the Sudanese capital Khartoum, state
radio said, while there were also deaths in Cairo and in
As U.S. military drones faced Islamist anti-aircraft fire
over Benghazi, about 50 marines landed in Yemen a day after the
U.S. embassy there was stormed. For a second day in the capital
Sanaa, police battled hundreds of young men around the mission.
Washington also sent Marines to reinforce security at its
embassy in Sudan.
Egypt's new Islamist president, Mohamed Mursi, condemned a
third day of stone-throwing and siege around the U.S. embassy in
Cairo, a linchpin of U.S. policy in the Middle East. Mursi must
tread a line between appealing to an electorate receptive to the
appeal of more hardline Islamists and maintaining ties with
Washington, which long funded the ousted military dictatorship.
In Khartoum, wider anger at Western attitudes to Islam also
saw the German embassy overrun, with police doing little to stop
demonstrators who raised a black Islamist flag. Violence at the
U.S. embassy followed protests against both Washington and the
Sudanese government, which is broadly at odds with the West.
The wave of indignation and rage over the film, which
portrays Mohammad as a womaniser and a fool, coincided with Pope
Benedict's arrival in Lebanon for a three-day visit to a region
still in the throes of upheaval and with Christian minorities
fearful of the rise of political Islam from Egypt to Syria.
"We were attacked by Obama, and his government, and the
Coptic Christians living abroad!" shouted one long-bearded
Muslim protester during the Cairo stand-off with police ringing
the U.S. embassy. The involvement of a prominent
Egyptian-American Christian in promoting the film has caused
anger and worry among Christian leaders in Egypt, who condemned
In the restive Sinai peninsula, militants attacked an
international military observer base close to the Israeli
border, a witness and a security source said. Two Colombian
soldiers were wounded, an official from the observer force said.
Libya closed its airspace around Benghazi airport for a time
because of heavy anti-aircraft fire by Islamists aiming at U.S.
reconnaissance drones flying over the city; Obama, who has sent
two warships to the Libyan coast this week, has vowed to bring
the killers of ambassador Christopher Stevens to justice.
A Libyan official said the spy planes flew over the embassy
compound and elsewhere, hunting strongholds of militant groups.
Further west along the Mediterranean, a Reuters reporter saw
police open fire to try to quell an assault in which protesters
forced their way past police into the U.S. embassy in Tunis.
Some smashed windows, others hurled petrol bombs and stones at
police from inside the embassy and started fires. One threw a
computer from a window, others looted computers and telephones.
A Tunisian security officer near the compound said the
embassy had not been staffed on Friday, and calls to the embassy
went unanswered. Two armed Americans in uniform stood on a roof.
The protesters, many of whom were followers of hardline
Salafist Islamist leaders, also set fire to the nearby American
School, which was closed at the time, and took away laptops. The
protests began after Friday prayers and followed a rallying call
on Facebook by Islamist activists and endorsed by militants.
Revolution in Tunisia last year was followed by uprisings in
Egypt, Yemen and Libya, and an anti-government revolt is still
being fought out in Syria. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary
Clinton appealed to the peoples of the four hesitant new
democracies to resist the men of violence.
"We've seen the heavy assault on our post in Benghazi that
took the lives of those brave men. We've seen rage and violence
directed at American embassies over an awful Internet video that
we had nothing to do with," she said in an address before the
flag-draped caskets at Andrews Air Force Base near Washington.
"It is hard for the American people to make sense of that
because it is senseless and it is totally unacceptable.
"The people of Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Tunisia did not trade
the tyranny of a dictator for the tyranny of a mob," Clinton
added. "Reasonable people and responsible leaders in these
countries need to do everything they can to restore security and
hold accountable those behind these violent acts."
BASHIR UNDER PRESSURE
President Omar Hassan al-Bashir of Sudan is under pressure
from Islamists who feel the government has given up the
religious values of his 1989 Islamist coup.
The official body of Sudan's Islamic scholars called for the
faithful to defend the Prophet peacefully, but at a meeting of
Islamists, some leaders said they would march on the German and
U.S. embassies and demanded the ambassadors be expelled.
Sudan's Foreign Ministry had criticised Germany for allowing
a protest last month by right-wing activists carrying
caricatures of the Prophet and for Chancellor Angela Merkel
giving an award in 2010 to a Danish cartoonist who depicted the
Prophet in 2005 triggering protests across the Islamic world.
Sudan hosted prominent militants in the 1990s, including al
Qaeda's Osama bin Laden. But the government has sought to
distance itself from radicals to improve ties with the West.
Palestinians staged demonstrations in both the occupied West
Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Israeli police, some on horseback, used stun grenades and
made a number of arrests outside Jerusalem's Old City as a few
dozen demonstrators tried to march on the nearby U.S. consulate.
In Nablus, in the northern West Bank, several hundred people
protested and burned an American flag, witnesses said.
At least 30,000 Palestinians took part in rallies across the
Gaza Strip, which is controlled by the Islamist group Hamas.
In Gaza City, American and Israeli flags were set alight,
along with an effigy of the film's supposed producer.
Protesters in Afghanistan set fire to an effigy of Obama and
burned a U.S. flag after Friday prayers in the eastern province
Directing their anger against an American Christian pastor
who endorsed the film, tribal leaders also agreed to put a
$100,000 bounty on his head.
About 10,000 people held a noisy protest in the Bangladeshi
capital Dhaka. They burned U.S. flags, chanted anti-U.S. slogans
and demanded punishment for the offenders, but were stopped from
marching to the U.S. embassy. There was no violence.
Thousands of Iranians held protests nationwide, and there
were also rallies in Malaysia, Nigeria, Jordan, Kenya, Bahrain,
Qatar, Pakistan and Iraq.