On Tuesday, the US ambassador to Tripoli, Chris Stevens, and three other Americans were killed in the Libyan city of Benghazi when an armed mob stormed the consulate, torching the building after looting it. The protests were sparked by the American-made amateur video called "Innocence of Muslims."
The low-budget movie, in which actors have strong American accents, portrays Muslims as immoral and gratuitously violent. It also pokes fun at the Prophet Mohammed and touches on themes of paedophilia and homosexuality. According to the Wall Street Journal the film was produced by Israeli-American Sam Bacile who describes Islam as a cancer.
|Protestors in Casablanca|
Morocco has described as "shameful aggression" the attack on the US consulate in the Libyan city of Benghazi, and presented its "sincere condolences" to the US government and people, while denouncing the film that prompted the attack. The Moroccan government stressed that the attack "cannot, in any case, be justified," in a statement carried by the official MAP news agency.
In Casablanca on Wednesday hundreds of people protested outside the US consulate. The protesters, numbering between 300 and 400 mostly young activists, gathered around 200 metres from the consulate amid a heavy police presence. Some shouted anti-US slogans, including "Death to Obama!", but without resorting to violence. The Casablanca protest appeared to have been called spontaneously, via social media networks, and without the involvement of any particular organisation.
|Police guard the US consulate in Casablanca in 2007 (photo: Abdelhak Senna)|
The two-hour movie that sparked the protests first came to attention in Egypt after its trailer was dubbed into Arabic and posted on YouTube.
The reaction in the social media has been swift and angry, with one Moroccan woman's Facebook comment about the film's makers "I will enjoy seeing them all burn in hell, inshallah" being typical of many responses.
Unfortunately, in the United States, the film is being promoted by an extreme anti-Muslim Christian pastor Terry Jones. On Wednesday, a MSNBC panel debated whether Jones should be held responsible for the deaths resulting from the protests. Others on the left have presented similar arguments, saying the film is to blame for the attacks, seemingly deflecting blame from the radical Islamists who carried out the acts of violence.
Hillary Clinton Comments
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has called a US-produced anti-Islam film that has angered Muslim communities in North Africa "disgusting" but said it cannot be used as a justification for the kind of violence seen at the US embassy in Libya.
The US Embassy in Morocco, like other embassies, has moved quickly and widely disseminated Secretary Hilary Clinton's earlier remarks about the killings in Libya - in Arabic. (See the Arabic text here)
The film's director in hiding
The director of a film that sparked protests says he is "upset" at the death of the US ambassador to Libya and has gone into hiding, a consultant on the project said on Wednesday.
"He's very upset that the ambassador got murdered," Steve Klein told AFP, adding that he had spoken to filmmaker Sam Bacile by phone earlier in the day, but did not know his location.
When Bacile - not his real name - was told about the death of US ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens, "he melted, he fell apart," added Klein, who said he was one of some 15 people behind the film, "Innocence of Muslims." He added that the reported Israeli-American director could suffer the same fate as Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh, who was assassinated in 2004 after triggering protests with an anti-Muslim film.
Asked if Bacile could be killed, he said: "If he goes public I'm sure he will."
|Protestors on the walls of the US Embassy in Cairo|
In Cairo, several thousand people stormed the US embassy in a similar protest against the film. On Thursday Egyptian police used tear gas as they clashed with the stone-throwing crowd after 13 people were injured in overnight unrest, according to the health ministry.
The U.S. embassy in Cairo issued an apology to Muslims shortly after rioting Muslims tore apart the American flag outside the embassy: “The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims – as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions.”
|A protester throws a tear gas canister near the US embassy in Cairo photo: Amr Dalsh|
Algeria's foreign ministry, meanwhile, condemned the low-budget movie, "Innocence of Muslims," The Algerian Foreign Minister, Mourad Medelci, offered his condolences to his US counterpart Hilary Clinton, after the deadly attack. Ministry spokesman Amar Belani meanwhile deplored "the irresponsibility of the authors of the film... which offends Islam and his prophet".
"The outrages on the sacred religious symbols... can only result in disapproval and indignation, because these provocations are designed to fuel hatred," he added.
The US embassy in Algiers issued an emergency travel warning, urging US citizens to avoid large crowds, and to "be aware of the potential for protests or demonstrations at any time."
|Protestors in Gaza photo: Suhaib Salem|
Further, U.S. embassies in at least seven countries in the Middle East, including Sudan, Tunisia and Morocco, Africa and the Caucuses are warning of possible anti-American protests.
The embassies in Armenia, Burundi, Kuwait, Sudan, Tunisia and Zambia, along with the embassy in Egypt, which was hit by a protest on Tuesday, all issued warnings on Wednesday advising Americans to be particularly vigilant.
The warnings, posted on the embassies’ websites, do not report any specific threat to Americans but note that demonstrations can become violent.
Protests have also broken out in Kuwait, Tunisia, Yemen, Gaza and Sudan.
Yemeni police shot dead a protester and wounded five others when they opened fire on a crowd attempting to storm the United States embassy in Sana'a to protest the film. The shooting in Sana'a came as protesters, chanting "O, messenger of Allah... O, Mohammed" launched a second charge on the complex which they had stormed earlier, but were ejected by the security forces.
Yemen president Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi apologised to his US counterpart Barack Obama and the American people for the acts of a "mob" and ordered a probe.
In Iran, up to 500 people protested in Tehran, chanting "Death to America!" and death to the movie's director. The rally took place near the Swiss embassy, which handles US interests in the absence of US-Iran diplomatic ties.
Fearing a violent backlash, Afghan president Hamid Karzai has postponed a planned visit to Norway.
The US has sent a detachment of 50 marines to secure the American embassy in the Libyan capital Tripoli, where staff numbers were being cut to emergency levels.
Washington also began evacuating all its staff from its mission in Benghazi while at the same time sending two destroyers to "the vicinity of Libya" as a precautionary measure, a senior US official said.