by Jailan Zayan
by Jailan Zayan
CAIRO, Sept 14, 2012 (AFP)
The US boosted security at its embassies amid fears of a tide of anti-American violence sparked by a film mocking Islam sweeping across the Middle East and North Africa after Friday’s Muslim prayers.
Even before the midday prayers began, fighting between police and protesters flared at the US embassy in Cairo, which since Tuesday has been besieged by crowds angered by the movie.
Protesters, many in their teens and moving around in small clusters, pelted police with stones who responded by firing tear gas, an AFP reporter said.
Roads leading up to the embassy in central Cairo were littered with stones and rocks after running battles on Thursday between police and protesters in which according to the health ministry 224 people were injured.
The Muslim Brotherhood, the country’s largest political group and on whose ticket President Mohamed Morsi ran, has called for “peaceful protests” outside mosques across the country after the noon prayer.
The violence began on Tuesday night, when protesters stormed the Cairo embassy compound, tearing down the Stars and Stripes and replacing it with a black Islamic flag, and has continued sporadically in the Egyptian capital ever since.
In Yemen, a group which organised anti-regime protests that brought down strongman Ali Abdullah Saleh, called for countrywide demonstrations Friday, a day after four people died in the capital Sanaa when police fired on protesters trying to storm the US mission.
And in Jordan, Salafist militants have said they plan to demonstrate outside the US embassy in Amman after the Muslim main weekly prayers.
Protests have spread across the Middle East and further afield, including to Bangladesh, Iran, Iraq, Israel and the Gaza Strip, Kuwait, Sudan and Tunisia.
The White House said security had been tightened at US diplomatic missions around the globe.
“We are watching very closely for developments that could lead to more protests,” said White House spokesman Jay Carney.
The protests come as US and Libyan officials probe an attack on the consulate in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi that killed the ambassador and three other US officials on Tuesday, amid growing speculation it was the work of extremist militants rather than just demonstrators.
Two of the four Americans killed in the assault were former members of the elite Navy SEALs officials identified as Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty. The harrowing attack also left Ambassador Chris Stevens and Sean Smith, an information management officer, dead.
Washington sought to keep a lid on the demonstrations by spelling out that the controversial film that set off the violence was made privately by a small group of individuals with no official backing.
“Let me state very clearly — and I hope it is obvious — that the United States government had absolutely nothing to do with this video,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared in condemning the “disgusting and reprehensible” video.
Libyan Prime Minister Mustafa Abu Shagur told AFP in an exclusive interview that a “big advance” had been made in the probe into the Benghazi attack following several arrests.
“We have some names and some photographs,” he said.
But air traffic was suspended to Benghazi late on Thursday due to what an airport source said were security concerns.
“We received orders on Thursday evening to immediately suspend all flights for security reasons,” the source told AFP.
Amid the mounting protests, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned the Middle East “may descend into chaos.”
The catalyst for the bloody conflagration in the Muslim world was an amateurish film denigrating the Prophet Mohammed and linked to evangelical and Coptic Christians in the United States.
The suspected producer is Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, a 55-year-old Copt living in California. It was promoted on the websites of two other Americans, extremist Christian pastor Terry Jones and another Copt, Washington-based lawyer Morris Sadek.
Both the State Department and the White House say there is nothing they can do to stop individuals producing inflammatory material because of freedom ofspeech laws enshrined in the First Amendment of the US constitution.
UN leader Ban Ki-moon condemned the “hateful” anti-Islam film as deliberately intended to incite bigotry.