The Obama administration is bracing for the possibility of more violent anti-American protests after Friday’s weekly prayers, traditionally a time of protest in the Middle East and North Africa, following protests outside of several U.S. embassies and a Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya that left four, including the U.S. ambassador to the country, dead.
All of the U.S.’ diplomatic missions overseas were on high alert Friday, and Secretary of State Clinton issued a statement strongly denouncing the anti-Islam video that is purportedly the cause of the violence as the administration sought to pre-empt further turmoil at its embassies and consulates.
“The United States government had absolutely nothing to do with this video,” Clinton said before a meeting with the foreign minister of Morocco at the State Department. “We absolutely reject its content and message.”
In Indonesia, the largest Muslim majority nation in the world, leaders and a prominent cleric urged citizens to remain calm despite anger over the film. Meanwhile, Jakarta police spokesman Col. Rikwanto tells The Associated Press the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta did not request any increased security, but 250 riot police have been put on alert ahead of expected demonstrations.
The embassy issued an email to American citizens saying a demonstration with an estimated 300 people was expected after Friday prayers.
The Obama administration was caught by surprise by the ferocity of the Sept. 11 storming of the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi that killed the American ambassador, Chris Stevens, and three other embassy staff members.
Libyan officials said Thursday they believe the attack in Benghazi was a planned operation by heavily armed militants that may have been timed to mark the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks on the U.S., and that the militants used civilian protesters as cover for their action.
In Egypt, protests continued Friday for the fourth day. Reuters reports protesters hurled stones at a line of police in Cairo blocking their way to the U.S. embassy, and police in riot gear fired tear gas and threw stones back at the demonstrators.
On Thursday, police used tear gas to disperse the protesters and the two sides pelted each other with rocks. But unlike Tuesday, when protesters climbed the embassy’s walls and several of them breached its grounds, police kept the protesters away from the compound.
The Health Ministry said 224 people, including policemen, were wounded, but they mostly suffered minor injuries. Twelve protesters have been arrested.
In Yemen’s capital of Sanaa, hundreds of protesters chanting “death to America” and “death to Israel” stormed the U.S. Embassy compound and burned the American flag on Thursday.
Yemen’s president, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, quickly apologized to the U.S. and vowed to track down the culprits, just as Libya’s president did. Egypt’s Islamist President Mohammad Morsi, who had been slow to speak out on Tuesday’s assault on the embassy in Cairo, promised Thursday that his government would not allow attacks on diplomatic missions.
In Iraq, several hundred Shiite hardliners protested Thursday in Baghdad’s Shiite stronghold of Sadr City, and the leader of an Iranian-backed Shiite militia, Asaib Ahl al-Haq, threatened anti-U.S. attacks.
In Iran, about 50 protesters shouted, “Death to America” outside the Swiss Embassy, which looks after U.S. interests there. Riot police kept the crowd at bay.
The State Department said on Twitter that U.S. diplomatic posts in Kuwait, Jordan, and Oman would be also on alert for possible protests going into Friday.
The Obama administration sent two warships to the Libyan coast and 50 Marines were sent to the Libyan capital of Tripoli to help with security. Obama told voters campaigning Thursday in Colorado that the Benghazi Consulate killers will be brought to justice and that protecting Americans serving abroad is one of his highest priorities.
The spreading violence comes as outrage grows over a movie called “Innocence of Muslims” that was produced by anti-Islam campaigners in the U.S. and mocks Islam’s Prophet Muhammad.
The amateur-like video was produced in the U.S. and excerpted on YouTube. It depicts Muhammad as a fraud, a womanizer and a madman in an overtly ridiculing way, showing him having sex and calling for massacres.