Anti-American Protests Over Film Expand to More Than a Dozen Countries

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CAIRO — The violently anti-American rallies that have roiled the Islamic world over a video denigrating the Prophet Muhammad expanded on Friday to more than a dozen countries, with demonstrators storming the American Embassy in Tunisia in a deadly clash and protesters in Sudan’s capital broadening the targets to include Germany and Britain.

The broadening of the protests reflected what appeared to be a catharsis of rage at the Western powers and was unabated despite calls for restraint from world leaders including the new Islamist president of Egypt, where the demonstrations first erupted four days ago on the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

In Washington, the Pentagon announced that it was dispatching 50 Marines to Sana, Yemen, to secure the American diplomatic compound, which was partly defiled by enraged protesters on Thursday. At a bazaar about 30 miles east of Jalalabad, Afghanistan, protesters burned an effigy of President Obama.

The breaching of the American Embassy in Tunis, the birthplace of the Arab Spring revolutions, was at least the fourth time that an American diplomatic facility in the Middle East had been violated since the protests began. The Tunisian police said at least three protesters were killed and 28 people were wounded.

All of the embassy staff members had been safely evacuated beforehand, officials there said, but part of the compound was burned and looted.

The American Cooperative School of Tunis, which caters to expatriate families and is located across the street from the embassy, was burned and completely plundered by protesters, who carried away a range of items including hundreds of laptop computers, children’s toys and musical instruments, the director of the school and members of his staff said. All of the students and faculty members had been evacuated hours before the embassy protest.

“It’s ransacked,” the director, Allan Bredy, said in a telephone interview. “We were thinking it was something the Tunisia government would keep under control. We had no idea they would allow things to go as wildly as they did.”

Germany’s foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle, told reporters at the Foreign Ministry in Berlin that the country’s embassy in Khartoum, Sudan, had been “stormed and in part set aflame” in an attack by “demonstrators capable of violence.” According to Mr. Westerwelle, embassy employees were safe. German missions in Muslim countries had already strengthened security measures because of the unrest.

The police fired tear gas to drive off the attacks in Khartoum, where about 5,000 demonstrators massed on the German and British Embassies, a witness told the Reuters news agency.

Thousands of Palestinians joined demonstrations after Friday Prayer in the Gaza Strip. Since there is no American diplomatic representation in Gaza, the main gathering took place in Gaza City, outside the Parliament building, where American and Israeli flags were placed on the ground for the crowds to stomp. Some demonstrators chanted, “Death to America and to Israel!” Palestinians also clashed with Israeli security forces in Jerusalem and held protests in the West Bank.

Witnesses in Cairo said protests that first flared on Tuesday — the day J. Christopher Stevens, the American ambassador in Libya, was killed in an attack in neighboring Libya— continued sporadically Friday, with protesters throwing rocks and gasoline bombs near the American Embassy and the police firing tear gas. The bodies of Mr. Stevens and three other Americans killed in the Libya attack were being returned to the United States on Friday.

In Lebanon, one person was killed and 25 injured as protesters attacked restaurants. There was also turmoil in Yemen, Bangladesh, Qatar, Kuwait and Iraq, and demonstrations in Malaysia. In Nigeria, troops fired into the air to disperse protesters marching on the city of Jos, Reuters reported.

State media in Egypt said more than 220 people had been injured in the clashes since Tuesday.

The widening unrest has challenged the Obama administration’s policy in the tinderbox region, where the Arab Spring uprisings have removed many of the pro-American strongmen who once kept public displays of Islamic passion in check.

In Yemen, baton-wielding security forces backed by water cannons blocked streets near the American Embassy a day after protesters breached the outer security perimeter there and officials said two people were killed in clashes with the police. Still, a group of several dozen protesters gathered near the diplomatic post, carrying placards and shouting slogans.

In Lebanon, hundreds of protesters set alight a KFC restaurant in the northern city of Tripoli on Friday, witnesses said, chanting against Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to the country and shouting anti-American slogans, according to a Reuters report.

In Iraq, where the heavily fortified American Embassy sits on the banks of the Tigris inside the Green Zone and is out of reach to ordinary Iraqis, thousands protested after Friday Prayer, in Sunni and Shiite cities alike.

Raising banners with Islamic slogans and denouncing the United States and Israel, Iraqis called for the expulsion of American diplomats from the country and demanded that the American government apologize for the incendiary film and take legal action against its creators.

“We want the U.S. government to prove that there is justice by stopping this movie and punishing the director and his staff,” said Sheik Ahmad al-A’ani, a preacher at a mosque in Baghdad.

In Hilla, in the Shiite-dominated south, a witness reported the burning of American and Israeli flags. In Kufa, another Shiite town in the south, a mosque preacher declared his belief that the four Americans killed in the attack in Libya actually died at the hands of the American government to create a pretext for the United States to seek revenge and extend its presence in the region. And in Samarra, a Sunni city north of Baghdad that is near Saddam Hussein’s hometown, Tikrit, preachers at mosques demanded that Iraqis boycott American goods.

In Egypt, in particular, leaders scrambled to repair deep strains with Washington provoked by their initial response to attacks on the American Embassy on Tuesday, tacitly acknowledging that they erred in their response by focusing far more on anti-American domestic opinion than on condemning the violence.

The attacks squeezed President Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood between conflicting pressures from Washington and their Islamic constituency at home, a senior Brotherhood official acknowledged. During a 20-minute phone call Wednesday night, Mr. Obama warned Mr. Morsi that relations would be jeopardized if the authorities in Cairo failed to protect American diplomats and stand more firmly against anti-American attacks.

On Friday, Mr. Morsi, on a previously scheduled state visit to Rome, called attacks on foreign embassies “absolutely unacceptable.”

In a letter published in The New York TimesKhairat el-Shater, the deputy president of the Muslim Brotherhood, said, “Despite our resentment of the continued appearance of productions like the anti-Muslim film that led to the current violence, we do not hold the American government or its citizens responsible for acts of the few that abuse the laws protecting freedom of expression.

“In a new democratic Egypt, Egyptians earned the right to voice their anger over such issues, and they expect their government to uphold and protect their right to do so. However, they should do so peacefully and within the bounds of the law.

“The breach of the United States Embassy premises by Egyptian protesters is illegal under international law. The failure of the protecting police force has to be investigated,” the letter said. It was displayed prominently on the English-language Web page of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.

The Muslim Brotherhood said in an online message Friday morning that it was “canceling” its call for a nationwide protest against the offensive video and would bring only a “symbolic” demonstration to Tahrir Square.

The cancellation was the latest sign of its rush to distance itself from the violence and vandalism against American embassies by outraged Muslims after the initial reticence of the group and its ally, Mr. Morsi, triggered a backlash from Washington.

Earlier in the week, the group had applauded the protests outside the embassy and promised a larger demonstration after Friday Prayer, but by Thursday the group had already revised that to encourage only smaller demonstrations outside individual mosques — which were all but inevitable in any event — before it withdrew the call altogether.

In Turkey, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan sought to strike the same balance, condemning “insults against the supreme values of Islam” and declaring that “the right to protest can never justify any act of violence, any act of terror, especially to hurt innocent people. That would be neither conscientious nor Islamic.”

In broad areas of the Islamic world, news reports on Friday said, the authorities faced similar dilemmas in their response to the amateurish American video, which portrays the Prophet Muhammad as a perverted buffoon and which Muslims have called deeply offensive to their beliefs. The protests in Afghanistan came despite efforts by the authorities there to prevent the offending video from being seen. Afghan officials said they pressed to indefinitely suspend access to YouTube, where the video, promoted by a shadowy assortment of right-wing Christians in the United States, had been viewed more than 3.4 million times by Friday.

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