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Muslim Protests in 20 Countries, Violent Demonstrations Focus on U.S. Embassies

September 14, 2012 at 12:00 AM EDT
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JEFFREY BROWN: Protesters poured into streets around the world today, outraged by a film made in California that mocks Islam and the Prophet Mohammed.

They vented their fury in at least 20 countries, and violence broke out in a number of cities, especially in the Middle East and Africa. At least four people were killed. U.S. embassies were the focus of much of the wrath, but appeared to escape serious damage.

Rage followed the reflection of Friday midday prayers, as protests over the anti-Islamic film targeted American installations in city after city.

In Tunisia, where the Arab spring uprisings began nearly two years ago, angry crowds moved on the U.S. Embassy, setting fires and battling police. A similar assault was mounted on the American Embassy in Sudan. Police drove back the crowds with gunshots and tear gas.

The rioters in Khartoum also assaulted the German Embassy, leaping over the compound walls and holding aloft a banner proclaiming the Islamic faith. That sparked outrage in Berlin from German foreign minister Guido Westerwelle.

GUIDO WESTERWELLE, German foreign minister: I demand from the Sudanese authorities that the safety of the German Embassy will be guaranteed immediately. I condemn this anti-Islamic hate video. But, still, this cannot be a justification for the outbreak of violence.

JEFFREY BROWN: U.S. Marines were dispatched to the capital of Yemen, where the American Embassy was assaulted yesterday and where clashes continued today.

In Tripoli, Lebanon, American commercial symbols were ransacked and torched, a Kentucky Fried Chicken and a Hardee’s. One person was killed there.

At the same time, Pope Benedict XVI arrived in Beirut for a long-planned visit.

POPE BENEDICT XVI, leader of Catholic Church (through translator): If the situation becomes more complicated, it is even more necessary to give this sign of brotherhood, of encouragement and solidarity. So the essence of my trip is to invite dialogue and peace against the violence. Let’s try together to find the solution to the problem.

JEFFREY BROWN: In East Jerusalem, a city sacred to Christians, Jews and Muslims, Palestinian protesters filed out of the Old City, and then clashed with mounted Israeli police.

Congregants in Gaza heard an outraged appeal from Ismail Haniyeh, leader of the militant group Hamas that now governs there.

ISMAIL HANIYEH, Hamas leader (through translator): We repeat our demands and raise our voice to the U.S. administration to apologize to the Arab and Islamic nation for this offensive film, and to prosecute those terrorists and criminals.

JEFFREY BROWN: And thousands turned out in Egypt for Friday prayers in Cairo’s Tahrir Square for a mostly peaceful demonstration.

SAMIR ANWAR, Egypt (through translator): I came to the square not to attack the American Embassy or America itself.

I am against those who produced, financed, and acted in the movie. I demand that they be publicly executed. They didn’t just insult Prophet Mohammed. They insulted all Muslims.

JEFFREY BROWN: But just a few blocks away, near the American Embassy, police and youths continued the skirmishing that’s been going on for days.

Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi prayed at noontime in Rome as he continued a mission through Europe, and he addressed the faithful, counseling restraint.

PRESIDENT MOHAMMED MORSI, Egypt (through translator): Islam is peaceful and bigger than those who tried to hurt it, because it takes care of all the other religions.

JEFFREY BROWN: Earlier, after a meeting with the Italian president, Morsi reiterated his statement from yesterday that decried the film, while promising to protect foreign diplomats.

MOHAMMED MORSI (through translator): In Egypt, we have clearly declared that we reject and condemn the killing of innocent people and the attacks at embassies and consulates.

Our duty is to defend diplomatic corps, tourists, and all foreign people who are guests in the country.

JEFFREY BROWN: Morsi had initially avoided that protective pledge after the U.S. Embassy in Cairo was attacked Tuesday. He received what multiple reports now say was a blunt phone call from President Obama Wednesday night. According to those accounts, chastened Egyptian officials then scrambled to defuse the volatile situation.

Today, Reuters reported that U.S. intelligence officials had concerns after clips of the offending movie, “the Innocence of Muslims,” were first broadcast Saturday in Egypt.

But White House officials said there was no advance warning of what was coming. Meanwhile, in Libya, the president of the National Assembly visited the charred ruins of the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, where Ambassador Chris Stevens and three colleagues died Tuesday.

MOHAMMED AL-MAGARIEF, Libyan National Assembly (through translator): I want to offer my thanks to Ambassador Stevens. I want to thank him and to thank the American people who gave birth to such special diplomats.

JEFFREY BROWN: The bodies of the four slain Americans were repatriated today outside Washington at Joint Base Andrews.

COL. WESLEY SMITH, U.S. army chaplain: Let light perpetual shine upon Chris, Sean, Glen, and Tyrone.

JEFFREY BROWN: Ambassador Stevens and State Department officer Sean Smith were brought home with two former Navy SEALs who’d been detailed to protect Stevens, Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty.

President Obama paid tribute to them, joined by Secretary of State Clinton.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: They didn’t simply embrace the American ideal; they lived it. They embodied it, the courage, the hope, and, yes, the idealism, that fundamental American belief that we can leave this world a little better than before.

That’s who they were, and that’s who we are. If we want to truly honor their memory, that’s who we must always be.

JEFFREY BROWN: The president again pledged that the killers would be brought to justice, and that the diplomatic work for which the four Americans gave their lives would be made safer for those who continue it.