On the anniversary of the September 11 Al-Qaeda attacks on the U.S. that killed some 3,000 people in 2001, Egyptian rioters attempted to invade the U.S. Embassy in Cairo Tuesday, tearing down the American flag and burning it. At least 2,000 people stood at the foot of the walls surrounding the embassy as about 20 of the rioters scaled the walls. Rioters also drew anti-American graffiti on the wall and demanded that the United States end its presence in Egypt. U.S. soldiers prevented the rioters from entering the Embassy compound. Witnesses said that Egyptian police at the scene did litttle to stop the rioters’ advance to the Embassy walls, which are usually cordoned off.
The object of the rioters’ wrath was the rumor that a U.S. group was planning a movie that would depict the history of early Islam, and the plundering and war committed by Mohammed, the creator of Islam. A Reuters reporter on the scene was unable to ascertain which movie the rioters were targeting, but several web Arabic web sites referred to a U.S. site that claimed that a group in Florida was planning an “International Judge Mohammad Day,” with Mohammed being put on trial for his crimes, live over the Internet.
The U.S. condemned the rioting. In a statement, the Embassy said that “respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy,” and that it condemned the “misguided actions” of individuals who disrespected Islam.
Last year, during the height of protests against former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, rioters invaded the Israeli embassy in Cairo, with several Embassy in mortal danger as rioters trashed the offices and threw furniture and equipment out windows. Seventy three Egyptians were convicted of rioting in that incident, but all received a suspended sentence.