Anti-Islam film suspect questioned

Sat, Sep 15, 2012, 01:00

A California man convicted of bank fraud has been escorted to an interview with federal officers probing possible probation violations stemming from the making of a film denigrating Islam, police said today.

Protests against the film eased in the Middle East after mobs stormed the American Embassy compound in Tunisia and targeted diplomatic missions in Sudan and Yemen.

A Los Angeles County Sheriff's spokesman said the man suspected of involvement in the making of the film is being questioned by probation officers

Nakoula Basseley Nakoula voluntarily left his home, accompanied by sheriff's deputies, to meet with the officers in the Cerritos sheriff's station, a spokesman said.

But he said Nakoula was not in custody. "He will be interviewed by federal probation officers," sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore said. "He was never put in handcuffs... It was all voluntary."

Clashes in Cairo's Tahrir Square stopped today after Egypt's main Islamist groups called for calm. Police secured the square and arrested 220 people, the country's interior ministry said in a statement.

In Tunis, where smoke billowed from the US embassy yesterday, a high security presence deterred protesters from taking to the streets. The days of turmoil across the Arab and Muslim world put new Arab Spring leaders in nations such as Tunisia and Egypt on the defensive as Islamists showed their power to exploit popular discontent.

The Yemen-based branch of al Qaeda urged Muslims to step up protests and kill US diplomats in Muslim countries over the film which it said was another chapter in the "crusader wars"

"Whoever comes across America's ambassadors or emissaries should follow the example of Omar al-Mukhtar's descendants (Libyans), who killed the American ambassador," Yemen-based Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) said.

"Let the step of kicking out the embassies be a step towards liberating Muslim countries from the American hegemony," it said in a statement posted on a website.

The violence also kept US president Barack Obama under pressure over his support for the Arab revolutions and over questions about whether his administration was caught unprepared for the threats to US personnel and property.

The bodies of the four Americans killed in a Sept. 11 attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya, were returned to the US yesterday in a solemn ceremony at Andrews Air Force Base near Washington.

Mr Obama and secretary of state Hillary Clinton paid tribute to the dead Americans, including ambassador Christopher Stevens, who played a pivotal role in helping Libyan rebels topple the Gadafy dictatorship.

In Cairo, where calls for a mass rally yesterday had raised concerns that violence would escalate in the Arab world's most populous nation, more than 1,000 people - including members of president Mohamed Mursi's Muslim Brotherhood - headed toward the US embassy after Friday prayers, seeking to calm the situation.

They chanted slogans urging an end to four days of fighting between demonstrators and police. "We will get justice for the prophet, but without blood," Mazhar Shahine, a prominent cleric, told the crowd, referring to the film that sparked the protests.

Protesters skirmished into the night with police, and Al Jazeera reported two died.

Armed militants yesterday attacked the headquarters of the Multinational Force and Observers in northern Sinai near the border of Gaza and Israel, wounding three peacekeepers, according to Mohamed Saeed, the head of criminal investigations in north Sinai.

The death toll from yesterday's attack on the US embassy in Tunis rose to four today, with 46 people injured, a hospital official said.

Police fought hundreds of protesters who smashed windows, hurled petrol bombs and stones at police from inside, and started fires in the embassy. A reporter saw police open fire on protesters forcing their way into the embassy building.

"The death toll is four dead - three were killed from gun shot wounds, the other was hit by two police cars," Nourredine Hard, a senior

official at the Mongi Slim hospital in Tunis said on Saturday. He said 46 were injured.

In Tunisia, birthplace of the Arab Spring, the police presence was high around the U.S.

embassy. An American school adjoining the embassy was ransacked and computers and musical instruments

were stolen. Protesters yesterday penetrated the U.S. embassy grounds after scaling the walls, and a cloud of smoke hung over

the compound. Tunisian security forces fired shots and entered the embassy grounds, chasing the demonstrators,

who didn't get into the main embassy building. Authorities also battled a fire set by protesters that gutted the American school.

Three people were killed and 28 wounded in the clashes, state television reported. President Moncef

Marzouki reacted by asking Tunisians to denounce the violence and groups behind it, Al Arabiya television reported. In Sudan's

capital, Khartoum, Germany's embassy was set afire yesterday and crowds also gathered outside U.S. and British

missions. German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said in Berlin that all personnel at the embassy in Sudan were safe. While

describing the disputed film as "shameful," he said it "isn't a justification for violence." Three protesters were

killed near the U.S. embassy in Khartoum when police vehicles ran over them, Al Jazeera reported. Yemen's

Capital Police used water cannons and fired warning shots into the air to disburse hundreds of protesters

who rallied for a second day at the U.S. embassy in Yemen's capital, Sana'a. Four protesters were killed attempting to storm the

embassy Sept. 13, according to the Interior Ministry. A Pentagon spokesman, George Little, told reporters

that an anti-terrorism security team of about 50 U.S. Marines arrived in Sana'a yesterday, part of efforts to bolster American

security. In Lebanon, protesters clashed with police in the northern city of Tripoli and one of the

demonstrators was killed, the Beirut-based Daily Star reported on its website. Israeli police used stun grenades to stop about

500 Muslims trying to make their way to the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem, said Micky Rosenfeld, a police spokesman.

A protest turned violent in Sydney as police used pepper spray on protesters throwing bottles of water and other objects, the Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported today.

At least one person was treated for head injuries during the protest, which spread from outside the US consulate to Martin Place and Hyde Park in the city's central business district, ABC News reported on its website.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters in Crimea, Ukraine, that "insulting the prophet cannot be considered as freedom of expression," while also condemning the attack on US diplomats in Libya.

In Pakistan, protesters burned US and Israeli flags as they staged small rallies. In the capital, Islamabad, police stopped a group of about 200 people trying to march

toward the high-security zone where foreign missions are located.


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