16 Sep 2012

Anti-Islam film protests escalate

1:35 pm on 16 September 2012

Protests over a US-made film that mocks Islam intensified across the Muslim world on Friday, with violence in Tunisia, Sudan and Lebanon leaving at least seven people dead.

Tunisian state television reported at least three people died and 28 others were wounded as crowds attacked the US embassy in the capital Tunis after Friday prayers.

A Reuters reporter saw police open fire to try to quell the assault, in which protesters managed to penetrate the embassy building, hurl petrol bombs at police from inside the embassy and start fires.

Protesters in the Sudanese capital Khartoum attacked the British and German embassies and crowds stormed the US embassy compound.

Sudanese state radio reports three protesters were killed at demonstrations at the US embassy.

Guards on the roof of the embassy fired warning shots as a security perimeter was breached by dozens of protesters, AFP reports.

Violence also erupted in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli, where a crowd attacked and set fire to a US fast food restaurant, sparking clashes with police in which one person died and 25 were injured.

In Yemen, security forces blocked all roads to the US mission, after confrontations had a day earlier left four people dead.

Widespread protests against the film began in Egypt on Tuesday. The US ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and three officials were killed in a fire started after the American consulate in Benghazi was stormed.

The film depicts the Prophet Mohammad as a womaniser and leader of a group of men who enjoy killing. Clips of the film were dubbed into Arabic and distributed online.

Much of the anger has been directed at the US where the film was reportedly made by 55-year-old Coptic Christian Nakoula Basseley Nakoula. He has denied involvement.

Violence has also erupted in Asia, with protests in India, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, Kashmir and Pakistan.

In Kabul, hundreds of Afghan protesters took to the streets, setting fire to an effigy of US President Barack Obama. Protests have been held in Iran, Iraq, Israel and the Gaza Strip and Kuwait.

'Mob tyranny'

In the United States, President Barack Obama and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton attended a ceremony near Washington marking the return of the bodies of the US ambassador and officials killed in Libya.

Speaking at the ceremony, Mr Obama vowed the US will do everything possible to protect Americans overseas, and has underscored that host countries must provide security for diplomatic missions.

Mrs Clinton said the people of Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Tunisia had not traded the tyranny of a dictator for the tyranny of a mob.

"We've seen rage and violence directed at American embassies over an awful internet video that we had nothing to do with," she said.

The White House has asked Google to reconsider its decision to allow the YouTube clip of the film to remain online.

The company rejected the request saying it had censored the video in India, Indonesia, Egypt and Libya to comply with local law, not as a response to political pressure.

Protests in Australia

Several hundred people in Sydney angered by the film, took to the streets on Saturday, some throwing rocks and bottles during clashes with police.

A demonstration that began with about 200 people outside the US consulate in Sydney swelled to more than twice that number.

Some of the chanting protesters carried placards reading "Behead all those who insult the Prophet".

Police, many wearing anti-riot equipment and some on horseback, used dogs and chemical sprays as they tried to control the protest.

Australia has a Muslim population of about 476,000 and is a staunch US ally with troops still fighting in Afghanistan.