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Anti-Muslim Video Sparks More Violent Demonstrations Across Muslim World

September 13, 2012 at 12:00 AM EST
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JUDY WOODRUFF: New anti-American protests erupted in the Middle East and elsewhere today over a video that mocks Islam, while, in Libya, officials reported arrests in the killing of the U.S. ambassador.

Security in Benghazi, Libya, was noticeably tighter today, and Interior Ministry officials said four people were arrested in Tuesday’s attack that left four Americans dead.

Ambassador Chris Stevens, State Department officer Sean Smith, and two colleagues died when gunmen stormed the U.S. Consulate. Whether Stevens was deliberately targeted remained an open question.

But the doctor who sought to revive Stevens’ lifeless body on Tuesday night described today how the veteran diplomat died.

DR. ZIAD BUZAID, Benghazi Medical Center (through translator): There were traces of smoke on his face and the smell of smoke on his body. He was dead.

I tried the usual first aid in cases of suffocation. I tried CPR for an hour-and-a-half. There were no bruises on his body. His body had no injuries. There was only the smell of smoke. Suffocation is the main reason for death.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The consulate attack started with protests over an anti-Islamic video produced in the U.S.

But U.S. intelligence officials suggested that may have been cover for the assault. Today, the violent demonstrations spread across more of the Muslim world.

In Yemen, the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa was besieged by thousands of protesters. Some scaled the walls, broke through gates, smashed windows, and set fires.

Yemeni security forces battled the demonstrators and finally dispersed them. And, in Iraq, hundreds of Shiites took to the streets of Sadr City in Baghdad, where a cleric insisted on action.

SHEIKH ALI AL-ATWANI, Iraq (through translator): We demand the Iraqi government close the American Embassy. And the American government should present an apology to all parts of the Islamic world, without exception.

JUDY WOODRUFF: There were also protests in Iran, and in Peshawar, Pakistan, near the Afghan border, where there’s a U.S. Consulate.

Clashes continued outside the U.S. Embassy in Cairo as well. Reports from the scene said the street skirmishing was now largely about longstanding tensions with the police and less about religious motivations.

Egypt’s president, Mohammed Morsi, was in Brussels today, where he denounced Wednesday’s violence for the first time. His previous failure to do so had caused concern in Washington.

And President Obama had a pointed answer on Egypt in an interview last night with Spanish-language Telemundo.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I don’t think that we’d consider them an ally, but we don’t consider them an enemy. They are a new government that’s trying to find its way. They were democratically elected.

I think that we’re going to have to see how they respond to this incident. In some cases, they have said the right things and taken the right steps. In others, how they have responded to various events may not be aligned with our interests.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Morsi spoke with Mr. Obama last night and asked for action against the maker of the inflammatory video titled “The Innocence of Muslims.”

PRESIDENT MOHAMMED MORSI, Egypt (through translator): I called him in order to ask him to put an end to such behavior.

And, of course, we assured President Obama that we will be keen and we will not permit any such event, any such occurrence in our country against the embassy or its territories in the future.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Today, in Washington, Secretary of State Clinton called the video disgusting and reprehensible.

SECRETARY OF STATE HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON: It appears to have a deeply cynical purpose, to denigrate a great religion and to provoke rage.

But, as I said yesterday, there is no justification, none at all, for responding to this video with violence.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Clinton also sought again to distance the United States government from the film and its maker.

The Associated Press reported that he’s been identified as a Coptic Christian living in California with a checkered legal past.

Actors in the film said that they were duped, that the blasphemous and offensive dialogue was later dubbed in. And not just Muslims, but Coptic Christians in Cairo denounced the film and its apparent intent.

BISHOP MORKOS, Cairo (through translator): If it is proven that there is a Copt that participated in the making of this movie, the church 100 percent refuses him.

JUDY WOODRUFF: There were efforts to remove the video from view. The government of Afghanistan tried to block YouTube access. And in Egypt and Libya, YouTube restricted users from playing the clip.

Meanwhile, American naval and military assets in the Mediterranean, including warships and drone aircraft, refocused on Libya, a country they helped liberate last year as part of a U.N.-sanctioned NATO operation.