Calls to protest movie mocking Muhammad spread to Algeria, Iran
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The day after outraged Egyptians scaled the walls of the American Embassy in Cairo and Libyan militants attacked and burned the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, protests and denunciations against an amateur movie mocking the Islamic prophet spread across the region, spurring warnings for Americans abroad.
Dozens of people turned out to protest in Gaza, chanting anti-American slogans and calling for the death of the filmmaker behind it. In Tunisia, scores of protesters reportedly burned American flags outside the U.S. Embassy in Tunis; Reuters reported that police scattered the protesters using tear gas and firing rubber bullets into the air.
In Algeria, the U.S. Embassy cautioned Americans to avoid its building and other official government buildings Wednesday afternoon, sending an emergency message to U.S. citizens after calls for protests went out on social media.
Iranians angered by the film planned to protest Thursday in front of the Swiss Embassy in Tehran, which represents U.S. diplomatic interests in the country. As calls to protest went out Wednesday, an Iranian official faulted the U.S. for not stopping insults to Islam.
“The U.S. government’s systematic and continued silence on such repulsive acts is the fundamental reason that they keep happening,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast was quoted as saying by state media. Mehmanparast made no mention of the attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in his remarks.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai also condemned the film, raising fears that his words would be seen as a green light for violence. Karzai made a similar denunciation of Florida pastor Terry Jones for burning a Koran in 2011; a mob launched a deadly attack on a United Nations mission the next day. Afghan communications officials reportedly tried to shut down access to YouTube to stop Afghans from seeing the video. So far, the protests were muted compared with the violence visited upon on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, where U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed. Sheik Mohamed Oraibi, a young Salafist religious cleric who witnessed the attacks, said unknown radicals had infiltrated their peaceful protest against the film on Tuesday.
‘The truth is in Libya, we are a conservative, traditional people and we felt offended that our prophet was insulted,’ he said. ‘But we never wanted this, we never meant for this to happen.’
-- Ramin Mostaghim in Tehran, Reem Abdellatif in Cairo and Emily Alpert in Los Angeles. Rushdi abu Alouf in the Gaza Strip and Laura King in Kabul contributed to this report.
Photo: Tunisian protesters burn a U.S. flag near the U.S. Embassy in Tunis on Wednesday during a demonstration over a film ridiculing the Islamic prophet Muhammad. Credit: Hassene Dridi / Associated Press