Fury at Muhammad film spreads across Islamic world
US PRESIDENT Barack Obama yesterday received the bodies of murdered Libyan embassy staff at Andrews airbase outside Washington as a tsunami of protests rolled across the Muslim world condemning a US-made film denigrating the Prophet Muhammad and gravely insulting Islam.
US secretary of state Hillary Clinton also attended the ceremony honouring ambassador Chris Stevens, the first US ambassador to die while on duty in 30 years, and three staff members killed in Tuesday’s attack by Libyans on the US consulate in Benghazi.
US rapid-response marine contingents have been deployed to Tripoli and to Sanaa in Yemen, where the US embassy was stormed and vehicles trashed by protesters yesterday.
Denunciation of the film as “hateful” by UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon failed to quell Muslim anger over the film, which depicted Muhammad as a fraudster and Islam as a false faith.
His condemnation of the violence in Benghazi fell on deaf ears.
Protests took place in at least 20 countries in the Middle East, Africa and Asia, from Tunis in the west to Jakarta in the east and southwards to Jos in northern Nigeria.
The largest demonstration was in Khartoum, where at least 5,000 angry Sudanese took to the streets. Scores climbed the walls of the US embassy located on the edge of town and smashed windows before being forced to withdraw by police firing tear gas canisters and live rounds.
Earlier, demonstrators entered the grounds of the German mission and set a fire which belched black smoke into the sky.
The adjacent British embassy was, apparently, not harmed.
Three demonstrators were reported killed and several injured, while personnel at all three embassies were said to be safe.
Rabie Abdul Atti of Sudan’s ruling National Congress Party condemned the rioting and said the police would protect diplomatic compounds.
The US embassy in Tunis was surrounded and breached by devout Tunisians from the countryside and angry youths from a poor quarter who also looted and torched vehicles at the American college nearby. Police were overwhelmed and troops in armoured vehicles were called in to disperse rock-throwing protesters. Three people were said to have been killed.
Meanwhile in Libya, Benghazi’s airspace was closed to traffic and the speaker of Libya’s national assembly Mohammed Magaryef laid a bouquet of flowers in front of the US consulate where he spoke of the dead ambassador as “a friend . . . who rendered laudable services to Libya”.
Ansar al-Sharia, a radical group believed to be behind the attack, is to be dissolved. Four people are said to have been arrested.
Heavily armed radical salafis appear to have infiltrated a protest outside the consulate and entered the compound through an unsecured gate or by climbing the wall. Armed elements then mounted a second assault on a safe house to which US personnel had fled.