DUBAI The Yemen-based branch of al Qaeda urged Muslims to step up protests and kill more U.S. diplomats in Muslim countries after a U.S.-made film mocking the Prophet Mohammad which it said was another chapter in the "crusader wars" against Islam.
"Whoever comes across America's ambassadors or emissaries should follow the example of Omar al-Mukhtar's descendants (Libyans), who killed the American ambassador," the group said, referring to Tuesday's attack on the U.S. consulate in the Libyan city of Benghazi.
"Let the step of kicking out the embassies be a step towards liberating Muslim countries from the American hegemony," a statement posted on an Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) website on Saturday said.
Fury about the film swept across the Middle East after Friday prayers, with protesters attacking U.S. embassies and in protests that killed at least seven people and prompted Washington to send troops to bolster security at its missions.
"The film published in America which insults our Prophet Mohammad, peace be upon him, comes as part of the continuing crusader wars against Islam," AQAP's statement said, referring to European wars in the region some 1,000 years ago.
"The incident is so huge that the resources of the nation should be pooled together to kick out the embassies of America from Muslim lands," it said.
AQAP, mostly militants mainly from Yemen and Saudi Arabia, is regarded by the United States as the most dangerous branch of the network founded by Osama bin Laden.
The group has used Yemen, a key regional U.S. ally, to plot attacks on the United States. Washington has backed a Yemeni army campaign that drove al Qaeda and its allies from their southern stronghold this year.
Muslims have blamed the U.S. government for the amateurish film of obscure origin. Washington has condemned the film and said it does not condone any insult to any religion.
Praising the attacks by angry demonstrators in Libya, Egypt, Yemen and Sudan on U.S. and other Western missions as "natural responses to a huge insult", the statement said that American embassies should be burned and diplomats killed.
It said defending the Prophet's honor was a "religious duty and obligation to the Muslim nation, each according to his ability".
The group also said that Muslims living in the West have an extra duty to be involved in attacks on key targets.
"They are more capable of doing harm and reaching the enemy is easier for them," it said.
Impoverished Yemen is struggling against challenges on many fronts since mass protests forced president Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down last year after decades in power.
The United States, eager to help the country recover from the upheaval that has pushed it to the brink of collapse, has said it would provide $345 million in security, humanitarian and development aid this year, more than double last year.
(Reporting by Ali Abdelatti in Cairo; Writing by Sami Aboudi; Editing by Louise Ireland)