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Protesters storm U.S. Embassy in Yemen in new attack

By Ahmed Al-Haj

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 06:10 a.m. HST, Sep 13, 2012

SANAA, Yemen » Chanting "death to America" and "death to Israel," hundreds of protesters angered by an anti-Islam film stormed the U.S. Embassy compound in Yemen's capital and burned the American flag today, the latest in a series of attacks on American diplomatic missions in the Middle East.

The string of assaults this week, in Yemen, Egypt and the storming of a U.S. consulate in Libya that killed four Americans, point to an increased boldness among Islamists who have become more powerful since last year's wave of revolts toppled authoritarian leaders.

The anger over the movie denigrating Islam's Prophet Muhammad has also put the region's new leaders - some of whom are themselves Islamists - in a difficult corner, between a base demanding a free hand to respond to the insult and U.S. pressure to crack down. In the past, protests have broken out over perceived insults to Islam from the West, but in Arab countries they never escalated to the degree of breaching embassies, suggesting now hard-liners feel they can act with impunity.

Yemen's president, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, quickly apologized to the U.S. for the embassy attack and vowed track down the culprits, just as Libya's president did. Egypt's Islamist President Mohammad Morsi, who had been slow to speak out on Tuesday's assault on the embassy in Cairo, promised Thursday that his government would not allow attacks on diplomatic missions.

U.S. officials suspect the Libya assault may have been a planned terror operation rather than a spontaneous mob assault. While protesters in other countries were unarmed, a crowd bristling with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades overwhelmed the consulate in Benghazi late Tuesday, killing the ambassador and three other Americans.

Protests are also erupting in other countries. In Egypt, protesters clashed with riot police who had pushed them away from the embassy the night before.

In Iraq, several hundred Shiite hardliners protested in Baghdad's Shiite stronghold of Sadr City. The leader of an Iranian-backed Shiite militia that previously attacked U.S. troops, Asaib Ahl al-Haq, threatened anti-U.S. attacks.

The movie "will put all the American interests in Iraq in danger," the militia leader, Qais al-Khazali, told The Associated Press.

In Iran, about 50 protesters shouted, "Death to America," outside the Swiss Embassy, which looks after U.S. diplomatic interests in Iran. Riot police kept the crowd away from the building.

Hundreds converged Thursday on the U.S. Embassy in the Yemeni capital Sanaa, which is heavily barricaded because of past al-Qaida-linked attacks on the compound. Yemeni guards at checkpoints on roads leading up to the compound did nothing to stop the crowd, said Ahmed Darwish, a witness who was at the scene.

The crowd swarmed over embassy's entrance gate. Men with iron bars smashed the thick, bullet-proof glass windows of the entrance building while others clambered up the wall. Some ripped the embassy's sign off the outer wall.

Inside the compound grounds, they brought down the American flag in the courtyard and replaced it with a black banner bearing Islam's declaration of faith - "There is no God but Allah." They did not enter the main building housing the embassy's offices, some distance away from the entry reception. Demonstrators set tires ablaze and pelted the compound with rocks.

Yemeni security forces who rushed to the scene fired in the air and used tear gas to disperse the demonstrators, driving them out of the compound after about 45 minutes and sealing off the surrounding streets.

The Embassy said nobody was harmed in the attack. "All embassy personnel are safe and accounted for," spokesman Lou Fintor said.

Hadi, the president, offered his "sincere apologies" for the attack and promised to catch those behind it. He said the attack was carried out by a "rowdy crowd" as part of a conspiracy to derail Yemen's close relations with Washington.

The assault appeared to be a copy-cat of the protest Tuesday night at the U.S Embassy in Cairo, when angry youths climbed the walls and brought down the flag, though they largely refrained from any material damage.

Yemen is home to al-Qaida's most active branch and the United States is the main foreign supporter of the Yemeni government's counterterrorism campaign. The government on Tuesday announced that al-Qaida's No. 2 leader in Yemen was killed in an apparent U.S. airstrike, a major blow to the terror network.

The spreading violence comes as outrage grows over a movie called "Innocence of Muslims" produced by anti-Islam campaigners in the U.S. that mocked Islam's Prophet Muhammad. The amateurish video was produced in the U.S. and excerpted on YouTube. It depicts Muhammad as a fraud, a womanizer and a madman in an overtly ridiculing way, showing him having sex and calling for massacres.

Egyptian protesters clashed Thursday with police near the U.S. Embassy in Cairo. Police used tear gas to disperse the protesters and the two sides pelted each other with rocks. But unlike Tuesday, the police kept the protesters away from the embassy's compound.

The Interior Ministry, which is in charge of police, said 16 protesters and 13 policemen were wounded in the clashes, which broke out overnight and were ongoing. Twelve protesters have been arrested, it said.

Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, speaking while on a visit to Brussels, vowed on Thursday not to allow attacks on foreign embassies in Cairo, saying the Egyptian people reject such "unlawful acts."

Afghanistan's government, meanwhile, sought to avert any protests as past anger over perceived insults to Islam has triggered violence in the country.

President Hamid Karzai canceled an official visit to Norway and spoke by phone with U.S. President Barack Obama to convey his condolences for the deaths of the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other diplomats, a statement said. He also discussed the "film and the insulting of holy Islamic values," but the statement provided no other details.

Associated Press writers Slobodan Lekic in Brussels and Lara Jakes in Baghdad contributed to this report.

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allie wrote:
Who would put out such a lousy, hate-filled film. Which country benefits from Islamic-American discord? Look behind the curtain people
on September 13,2012 | 06:29AM
mrluke wrote:
There are lots of really lousy films out there, but only one group sees fit to burn and murder anyone over them!
on September 13,2012 | 07:14AM
jimbone wrote:
Yup, we should pull all people out of these countryʻs and stop ALL AID to these people. Why would we want to help these low lifes for.
on September 13,2012 | 07:23AM
all_fed_up wrote:
My thoughts, for what it's worth...This "movie" was conceived by al-qaida sympathizers, knowing full well the anti-american reaction this would create. It did it's job.
on September 13,2012 | 08:30AM
Grimbold wrote:
I say, I would, because I hate Islam, even if it only was their degrading women with a suffocating wrap-up even in hot weather.Imagine my poor wife would have to wear that ! And it is true, a part of Mohammed was almost as depicted.
on September 13,2012 | 11:39AM
false wrote:
Looks like history is repeating for Obama, similarly to the Jimmy Carter years.
on September 13,2012 | 07:11AM
HawaiiCheeseBall wrote:
What are you smoking. The guy killed Osama and more terrorist have ended up on the receiving end of a US drone strike than under the previous administration. Jimmy Carter he is not.
on September 13,2012 | 08:58AM
scooters wrote:
Enough all ready. Time for us to get a president who's got some "gut's" to get tough with these anti-American fools. Stop the aid. And punish those countries that allow the destruction of our Embassy and death of our citizens. Islam is a cancer that needs to be removed.
on September 13,2012 | 07:20AM
Charliegrunt wrote:
An attack against our embassies are attacks on our country. The President's immediate action is to send in ships with helicopters to evacuate all embassy and US personnel with close air support, naval gunfire and gunships on station to protect the evacuation. Then, immediately end all diplomatic and trade relations, foreign and military aid.
on September 13,2012 | 07:31AM
cojef wrote:
Religious extremist who are bent on slaying non-believers of their faith, certainly should not be tolerated by the civilized community. Seems like, we have seen the likes of this type mentality in our past history which witnessed the mass killing of 6 million Jews. Fortunately that threat no longer exist. Now, we are faced with threats that communities back in the middle ages faced. A religious war, Christianity vs. Islam. The "Crusades" revisited in the 21st Century? Is the Mayan calendar prophesy coming to reality? Are we living in a world where religious fervor will see the doom of the human race. The profiliation of nuclear weaponry does not help an iota. Sound pessimistic, you bet! That's reality.
on September 13,2012 | 07:32AM
loquaciousone wrote:
This kind of reaction only enforces most people's belief that young disenfranchised Muslims have very a pliable thought process and can be easily prodded into senseless violence.
on September 13,2012 | 07:39AM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
Ah yes, the Arab Spring, a natural evolution of Hope and Change.
on September 13,2012 | 07:46AM
Graham wrote:
BINGO...waiting for an apology to be issued from the White House for Americans causing Muslims to be upset.
on September 13,2012 | 07:59AM
keight wrote:
And you're saying it would've been better if they continued to live under brutal dictatorships? Freedom is new to them and they have a lot of maturing to do ... it's ludicrous to blame this on our country.
on September 13,2012 | 11:12AM
ufried wrote:
on September 13,2012 | 07:55AM
Graham wrote:
"Nightmares for America"
on September 13,2012 | 08:00AM
Jsato wrote:
Foreign policy has become so complex in the age of nuclear warfare. I'd say leave well enough alone and get out of these countries but with the possibility/probability of nuclear warfare in the Middle East, I don't see how we can abandon diplomatic efforts at this point in time, despite the apparent absurdity of having diplomatic relations in places where local citizens attack our own embassies. Obviously they need to majorly fortify all of our embassies - and keep them fortified. It seems nuts we have tens of thousands of troops in Afghanistan (who are actually being murdered by troops who are supposed to be allies) and our own embassies in the Middle East barely have any protection?
on September 13,2012 | 08:19AM
localpoi wrote:
Take care of Americans first! No more hand outs and no more protection.
on September 13,2012 | 08:26AM
Waokanaka wrote:
Hey, where are the Marines who are supposed to protect all US Embassies? Why would you depend on some amateur security force to protect American diplomats in an OBVIOUSLY hostile country/countries ? The US Marines would kick their disrespectful punks' okoles and then mop the grounds with their useless bodies. We Americans who haven't traveled to these 3rd world countries, do not understand the extreme poverty that exists there. A person who doesn't know how he will feed his family their next meal is told he'll go straight to heaven if he dies in the name of Allah AND then is offered $50,000 to kill an American infidel, is VERY likely to do it. If you offer a civilized person the same deal, you'll be asked if you are sane. Get the Marines in place and let them do what they do best - kick the enemies' okoles and take names later !!! Oh yeah, unfortunately, the US has the 1st amendment that protects, even idiots' points of view. Perhaps someone can point his address out so the protestors can give credit where credit is due. Maybe THAT will teach the hateful extremists in the US how to use their 1st amendment rights a bit more judiciously.
on September 13,2012 | 09:07AM
johncdechon wrote:
"The US Marines would kick their disrespectful punks' okoles and then mop the grounds with their useless bodies." -- Waokanaka. Well, they COULD physically do that but won't be allowed to do ANYTHING, just surrender and get captured without firing a shot -- so they don't "provoke the fa nat ics any further and cause more of an incident." In other words, sacrifice everyone in the embassy for politics & world opinion. What a SORRY "foreign policy" that is! Like the Tehran Embassy Marines during Carter's Presidency in 1980 -- They did NOTHING. The Marines at ALL our embassies -- even 32 years later -- are just window-dressing...they won't (ordered not to by Da Prez probably) DO anything. So ANYONE who wants to can attack our embassies, and NOTHING will be done about it...just "harsh words" for the Prez and weak "diplomacy" to sort-out, find and punish the guilty. Yeah, right...tell that to the familes who lost people in the US Cunsulate in Benghazi Libya. What c r a p.
on September 13,2012 | 10:06AM
iwanaknow wrote:
We are on a very slippery slope headed downward. Send our most terrible prisoners overseas telling them they can come back if they fight the "enemy". Were is Rambo when we need him?
on September 13,2012 | 09:55AM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
Likw the Marine guards at embassies in middle East countries, Rambo was not given any real bullets.
on September 13,2012 | 10:58AM
keight wrote:
Yeah ... let's start more trillion dollar wars ... nobody can push us around. Our western culture is the only one that matters. We are 100% right and they are 100% wrong.
on September 13,2012 | 11:15AM
Graham wrote:
Excuse me...how did we start this...they attacked our embassies...
on September 13,2012 | 01:40PM
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