Day three of anti-"Innocence of Muslims" protests featured new demonstrations, and clashes with police flared up once again outside the U.S. Embassy in Cairo. Over 200 people have been injured in the Egypt protests, but thus far no one has been reported killed. Other protests took place in Tahrir Square and around the American Embassy.
A 5,000-person-strong protest in Khartoum, Sudan, against the British and German Embassies left the German embassy on fire on Friday, the AP and Reuters reported. Other clashes between protesters and police, as well as demonstrations outside U.S. embassies, have been reported in Iraq, Jordan, Kashmir, Lebanon. There were also reports that protests took place in Iran outside the Swiss Embassy (which represents U.S. interests).
The U.S. Embassy in Tunisia has also been stormed, according to the AP.
So far, at least 18 people have died in similar protests in Yemen and Libya, including the U.S. Ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, and three of his colleagues. Given the ferocity and apparent "professional execution" of the attacks in Benghazi, U.S. and Libyan officials have said they suspect those attacks were planned to coincide with the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, and the film was used as a cover, Reuters Africa reported. The UK outlet the Independent reported that the Embassy even had prior warning of the attack, but "did nothing." Libya later said they had "made several arrests in connection with the attack," the BBC reported.
The protests arose over a 14-minute trailer posted on July 2 on YouTube for a film called the "Innocence of Muslims," which depicts the Prophet Mohammed and his followers in a negative light. One aggrieved protester told the BBC: "The film isn't the first insult, there have been so many. There should be an international law to stop insults to Islam."
The cast and crew of "Innocence of Muslims," speaking to Gawker and CNN, said they had been duped: While filming, they said the film was called "Desert Warriors," and it contained no references to Muslims or Muhammad. The offensive statements were dubbed over the original spoken dialogue, and later dubbed into Arabic.
The identity of the filmmaker, who at first went by "Sam Bacile," has been called into question. The Atlantic first postulated that Sam Bacile might not be who everyone said he was -- an Israeli filmmaker. The Wall Street Journal and the AP spoke with "Bacile," who defended his work and claimed that the film cost $5 million, and was backed by more than 100 Jewish donors, despite the low production quality.
"Bacile" is now suspected to be the same person as producer Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, a Los Angeles-based Coptic Christian who has since gone into hiding. Law enforcement officials have said that Nakoula served two years in jail for bank fraud and has used many different alias.
Leaders in the affected countries have been appealing to their citizens for peace and apologizing to U.S. leaders for the violence. The Libyan Ambassador to the U.S., Ali Suleiman Aujali, told CNN, "I feel shamed at what happened." Newly-elected Libyan Prime Minister Mustafa Abushagur, speaking to the BBC, said "Innocence of Muslims" was "for sure" offensive, but that the video didn't justify the "violent actions against Americans or American embassies."
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon issued a statement saying he was "deeply disturbed" by the violence in Libya, and condemned the "hateful film."
Egyptian President Muhammad Morsi, speaking at a press conference, told reporters, "These kinds of acts jeopardize relationships between people in the world. We are not, in any way, we are not accepting those acts. We are against those acts."
U.S. President Barack Obama, speaking at a campaign rally on Friday, said that "No act of terror will go unpunished ... no act of violence shakes the resolve of the United States of America."
In response to Morsi's comments, Obama told Telemundo's Jose Diaz Balart, "I don't think we [the U.S.] could consider them an ally, but we don't consider them an enemy." The White House later clarified that this statement did not signal a change in the U.S.-Egypt relationship, according to Foreign Policy.
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