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Violent Protests Against Muhammad Film Spread Across Muslim World


New Protests Erupt In Muslim Countries Over Controversial Film
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Demonstrators have stormed the U.S. Embassy in Yemen's capital, Sanaa, as anger continued to spread across the Muslim world over a private film project that mocks the Prophet Muhammad.

In Yemen, hundreds of protesters stormed the U.S. Embassy compound in Sanaa on September 13, breaking windows, torching vehicles, and burning the U.S. flag, before police drove them out by using water cannon, tear gas, and warning shots.

At least three people were reported killed and more than 30 injured. The U.S. State Department said all embassy staff members were safe and accounted for.

In Cairo, also on September 13, police clashed with demonstrators staging their third day of protests outside the U.S. Embassy against the low-budget film project.

More than 220 people were reported injured in the violence.

One protester, identified as Abdullah Ibrahim Muhammad, explained why he came to the protest.

"We will never accept that our Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, might be humiliated. And this is against even freedom everywhere, as somebody said before me," the protester said.

"There is freedom everywhere in the world, except for Muslims. Muslims are shown as terrorists. They do not give us our liberty or our freedom."

In Iraq, thousands marched in the Shi'ite stronghold of Al-Sadr City in northeast Baghdad, shouting "No, no, to Israel! No, no to America!" and "Yes, yes for Messenger of God."

Smaller protests were held in Iran, Kuwait, Gaza, Morocco, Sudan, Tunisia, and Bangladesh.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who has condemned the film, canceled an official visit to Norway amid concerns over possible violence. The Norwegian Foreign Ministry said the Afghan leader felt he needed to stay home following recent events.

Anger Among Cast, Crew

Mystery remains over exactly who was behind the film that has sparked the protests, amid conflicting reports of Jewish or Coptic Christian involvement.

Steve Klein, a consultant on the movie project, denied that Israeli authorities were involved. He also admitted that the named used by the film director -- Sam Bacile -- is a pseudonym.

The film has not been completed, but excerpt footage has been posted on YouTube. Cast members and crew who worked on the project also are voicing anger about it. They say they did not know the film was insulting the Prophet Muhammad because offensive dialogue was overdubbed after the filming.

Despite uncertainties over the filmmaker, anti-U.S. protests continued to spread across the Muslim world on September 13.

In Tehran, additional security forces were stationed outside the Swiss Embassy on September 13 as Iranian students demonstrated against the film. The United States does not have an embassy in Iran, so Switzerland often serves as an intermediary for Washington.

'We Will Not Forgive Them'

In Iraq, the Asaib al-Haq militia, an Iraqi group that carried out attacks against foreigners during the Iraq war, threatened all U.S. interests in that country.

The group's leader, Qais al-Khazali said, "The offense caused to the messenger [Prophet Muhammad] will put all American interests in danger and we will not forgive them for that."

Police also clashed with demonstrators outside the U.S. embassy compounds in Tunisia and Sudan late on September 12.

On September 11, U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi while a crowd protested the film.

Libyan Prime Minister Mustafa Abu Shagur told the AFP news agency that some arrests had been made over the attack.

U.S. officials are investigating whether Al-Qaeda-linked militants used the Benghazi protest as cover while staging an attack on the building.

U.S. President Barack Obama has ordered security strengthened at all U.S. facilities overseas following the violence in Libya.

On September 13, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reiterated that the U.S. government had nothing to do with the film, which she called "disgusting and reprehensible." She said it "appears to have a deeply cynical purpose: to denigrate a great religion and to provoke rage."

But she said there was no justification for responding to the video with violence.

"It is especially wrong for violence to be directed against diplomatic missions. These are places whose very purpose is peaceful, to promote better understanding across countries and cultures," she said. "All governments have a responsibility to protect those spaces and people."

Russian President Vladimir Putin said he feared the Middle East is at risk of descending into "chaos." In televised comments, Putin condemned the killing of the U.S. ambassador and the three other Americans in Libya.

"It is the murder of diplomats we are talking about here, the people who are protected by the international conventions, the life and health of which are protected by the international legislation," Putin said.

"And if someone does not recognize that, then these people are putting themselves not only outside of law, but outside the modern civilization."

He urged new governments that came to power following Arab Spring uprisings to take full responsibility for security in their countries.

With reporting by Reuters, AFP, AP, and dpa
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