Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Violent outrage spreads across Arab world

Anger over video in many nations

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CAIRO, Egypt -- Angry protests over an anti-Islam video spread across the Muslim world Friday, with demonstrators scaling the walls of U.S. embassies in Tunisia and Sudan, torching part of a German embassy and clashing with police in violence that left at least four dead. Amid the turmoil, Islamic militants waving black banners and shouting "God is great" stormed an international peacekeepers base in Egypt's Sinai and battled troops.

Egypt's new Islamist president went on national TV and appealed to Muslims to not attack embassies, denouncing the violence earlier this week in Libya that killed four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador.

Mohammed Morsi's first public move to restrain protesters after days of near-silence appeared aimed at repairing strains with the United States over this week's violence.

Police in Cairo and the Yemeni capital Sanaa dug in to prevent protesters from reaching U.S. embassies, firing tear gas and clashing with the young demonstrators. But elsewhere, authorities gave the anger freer rein: In Sudan, the attack on the U.S. Embassy came after a call from a cleric on state radio, and protesters drove unhampered for kilometres in a convoy of buses to the embassy.

The day of protests, which spread to around 20 countries, started small and mostly peacefully in countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, India, Afghanistan and Pakistan. The most violent demonstrations took place in the Middle East. In many places, only a few hundred took to the streets, mostly ultraconservative Islamists -- but the mood was often furious.

The demonstrators came out after weekly Friday Muslim prayers, where many clerics in their mosque sermons urged congregations to defend their faith, denouncing the obscure video produced in the United States that denigrated the Prophet Muhammad. It was a dramatic expansion of protests that began earlier this week and saw assaults on the U.S. embassies in Egypt and Yemen and the storming of the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

Several thousand battled with Tunisian security forces outside the U.S. Embassy in Tunis. Protesters rained stones on police firing volleys of tear gas and shooting into the air. Some protesters scaled the embassy wall and stood on top of it, planting the Islamist flag that has become a symbol of the wave of protests: A black banner with the Islamic profession of faith, "There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is his Prophet."

Police chased them off the wall and took the flag down. Two protesters were killed and 29 people were wounded, including police.

The heaviest violence came in Sudan, where a prominent sheik on state radio urged protesters to march on the German Embassy to protest alleged anti-Muslim graffiti on mosques in Berlin and then to the U.S. Embassy to protest the video.

"America has long been an enemy to Islam and to Sudan," Sheik Mohammed Jizouly said.

Soon after, several hundred Sudanese stormed into the German Embassy, setting part of an embassy building aflame along with trash bins and a parked car. Protesters danced and celebrated around the burning barrels as palls of black smoke billowed into the sky until police firing tear gas drove them out of the compound. Some then began to demonstrate outside the neighbouring British Embassy, shouting slogans.

Several thousand then moved in a convoy of buses to the American Embassy, on the capital's outskirts. They tried to storm the mission, clashing with Sudanese police, who opened fire on some who tried to scale the compound's wall. It was not clear whether any protesters made it into the embassy grounds.

The police then launched giant volleys of tear gas to disperse the crowd, starting a stampede. Witnesses reported seeing three protesters motionless on the ground, apparently dead, though there was no immediate confirmation of deaths in the violence.

The attack on the peacekeepers base in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula raised the dangerous prospect of armed Islamic militants exploiting the turmoil to carry out attacks on Western targets.

 

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 15, 2012 A28

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