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 against a film seen as insulting to Islam.
Al Jazeera television reported that four people were killed yesterday when demonstrators tried to storm the embassy in Sana’a as protests against the film ridiculing the Prophet Muhammad flared in Egypt and Iran. Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood sought to tone down rallies today, urging all Muslims to temper their response to the movie.
The spread of violence follows the killing of the American ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, and three colleagues during a Sept. 11 attack on consular buildings in Benghazi. Several people were arrested in Libya for that attack, Al Arabiya TV reported yesterday, citing the Libyan Interior Ministry.
U.S. President Barack Obama thanked Yemeni President Abdurabuh Mansur Hadi by phone yesterday for his swift condemnation of the violence and his promise to investigate the matter, according to a statement issued by the White House. Obama underscored the importance of security for U.S. personnel and Hadi said additional security forces had been deployed around the embassy, according to the statement.
In Egypt, more than 200 people were injured yesterday, according to health officials. Demonstrations also took place outside the Swiss mission in Tehran, which represents U.S. interests in Iran.
The eruptions across the Middle East, recalling the reaction to the publication of cartoons about the Prophet Muhammad in a Danish magazine in 2005, were prompted by excerpts of the disputed 14-minute film that were posted on Google Inc.’s YouTube. It portrays the Prophet Muhammad as a womanizer. For Muslims, any depiction of the prophet is sacrilegious.
The anti-American violence threatens U.S. efforts to establish ties with the new governments that are emerging in the Middle East after last year’s wave of revolts.
In Washington, the Obama administration downplayed any rift with the Egyptian government a day after Obama said he doesn’t consider Egypt an “ally,” following the assault on the embassy in Cairo. The president “in diplomatic and legal terms was speaking correctly” when he described Egypt’s status in an interview with Telemundo, White House press secretary Jay Carney said yesterday in Colorado, where Obama was campaigning.
Carney said the U.S. has no mutual defense agreement with Egypt as it does, for example, with members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. For more than 20 years, Egypt has held a preferential status known as a “major non-NATO ally.”
National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor called Egypt a “long-standing and close partner of the United States” and said Obama is committed to “supporting Egypt’s transition to democracy and working with the new government.”