by Kaouther Larbi
by Kaouther Larbi
TUNIS, Sept 14, 2012 (AFP)
Two people were killed Friday and dozens injured in clashes at the US embassy in Tunis, where protests over an anti-Islam film degenerated into violence that left smoke billowing from the sprawling compound.
Tunisian police fired live rounds and tear gas to drive away the angry protesters, some of whom had thrown petrol bombs and stormed the embassy, in a suburb of the capital, an AFP journalist reported.
Thick black smoke rose into the sky as the protesters, most of whom appeared to be radical Salafist Muslim, also ransacked and set fire to an American school nearby.
By 6:00 pm (1700 GMT) calm had returned, with security forces patrolling the area around the mission. Armoured vehicles drove through the surrounding streets that were littered with debris.
President Moncef Marzouki in a television address denounced the attack on the embassy, calling it an unacceptable act against a friendly country.
“The violence that took place today outside the American embassy is totally unacceptable and is condemned,” he said.
“One can maybe understand the anger of demonstrators and even share in it, but these young people have begun to commit acts of destruction, to set fire… to the embassy of a friendly country.”
A health ministry spokesman told AFP that two people were killed during the clashes, adding that it was a provisional death toll.
He also spoke of “40 wounded, including 20 police officers.”
Earlier, the ministry said three people had been killed and 28 wounded. Two of the wounded were reported to be in a critical condition.
Tunisian Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali, from the ruling Islamist party Ennahda, said he was “deeply troubled” by the attack on the embassy, according to the official TAP news agency, and cut short a two day break to return to Tunis.
The government appealed for calm, calling on “all citizens to respect the law and to express their positions peacefully when confronted with attacks on the sacred symbols and offenses against the prophet,” TAP reported.
It also condemned the attack, saying those responsible would be brought to trial.
Tunisian imams and hardline Salafists had called Friday’s protest outside the embassy to denounce a film mocking Islam posted on the Internet that has sparked anti-US protests across the Islamic world.
The amateur American-made video called “Innocence of Muslims,” in which actors have strong American accents, portrays Muslims as immoral and gratuitously violent.
— Burning cars and buildings —
More than 1,000 stone-throwing protesters had gathered outside the USembassy, shouting anti-US slogans including: “Obama! Obama! We are all Osama!”in reference to the slain Al-Qaeda mastermind Osama bin Laden. They also waved the black Islamist flag and hurled insults at police,accusing them of “protecting” those who denigrate Islam. The police respondedwith firing tear gas and warning shots, as they tried to disperse the crowd. But the demonstrators, acting aggressively, managed to clamber over one ofthe walls round the mission, near the car park where several vehicles had been set ablaze, an AFP photographer reported.