Protests over anti-Islam film: As it happened

Key Points

  • Protests against an anti-Islam film made in the US spread across the Middle East and North Africa - including Egypt, Morocco, Sudan and Tunisia
  • Demonstrators earlier stormed the grounds of the American embassy in the Yemeni capital Sanaa where they burned a US flag - but were driven back
  • In Cairo, protests erupted for a third day outside the US embassy where over 200 people are said to have been injured
  • The protests followed an attack on the US consulate in Benghazi on Tuesday - in which the ambassador to Libya was killed in a fire
  • US officials have been investigating whether the attack in Benghazi was planned - citing suspicions that a militant jihadist group may have co-ordinated it

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    Welcome to the BBC News live page, bringing you the latest updates as protests over an anti-Islam film made in the US continue in the Middle East and north Africa.


    In Yemen's capital Sanaa, crowds stormed the grounds of the US embassy, setting fire to vehicles. Police shot in the air, but failed to prevent them gaining access.


    Security forces have now regained control of the compound in Sanaa, using tear gas, water cannon and live fire to drive back protesters.


    In Benghazi, some demonstrators have been apologising for the deaths of the US ambassador and three other officials in Tuesday's attack. "On behalf of the real revolutionaries in Libya, we apologise to the government and to the American people for what has happened", demonstrator Awad al-Ahaiwal told World Update on the BBC World Service.


    In Pakistan, an umbrella organisation of Pakistani religious clerics has called for Friday to be a protest day against the film. Demonstrations are expected in Peshawar and Lahore.


    A spokesperson for Yemen's embassy in Washington DC said the violence in Sanaa occurred when "thugs" overtook a protest: "I believe they flooded the area and it quickly got out of hand. I understand soldiers did not open fire and there were no direct hits," he said.

    @ionacraig, in Sanaa, Yemen,

    tweets: Cars being burnt whilst I was embassy. Soldiers allowing protesters through the security cordon. #Yemen


    In Egypt's capital Cairo, there have been further clashes at the US embassy. A group of demonstrators angered by the film climbed into the embassy and tore down the American flag, the Reuters news agency reports.

    @PhilbrickYadav, Geneva, US,

    tweets: Remember that protesters' grievances against this specific US ambassador to Yemen run deep and are quite specific. Not just about the film.


    Egyptian President Mohammed Mursi has promised to ensure the safety of American staff in the country. "Insulting sacred Islamic figures crosses a red line, but we reject violence," he said at a joint conference with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso in Brussels.


    The US embassy in Cairo has sent out this series of tweets: 1) Thank you for your thoughts and prayers. 2) Of course we condemn breaches of our compound, we're the ones actually living through this. 3) Sorry, but neither breaches of our compound or angry messages will dissuade us from defending freedom of speech AND criticizing bigotry.


    Pakistan's lower house of parliament has unanimously approved a resolution condemning the "airing of a defamatory video clip in the US". The resolution says that such actions "provoke hatred within societies and between peoples of various faiths".

    @adammbaron, in Sanaa, Yemen,

    tweets: Back by embassy, situation has stabilized, still blocked off, still very tense. #yemen

    1242: Frank Gardner BBC security correspondent

    reports: "A well-informed expert on jihadist groups in Libya says it's wrong to ascribe the Benghazi attack to Ansar al-Sharia. He says this - as we've been reporting - is a catch-all expression for a loose grouping of Libyan Islamists, more a way of thinking than an organisation. He says they are not core al-Qaeda but sympathisers with links. The same group carried out attacks on US and UK interests in Benghazi in June following the killing of Libyan al-Qaeda leader Abu Yahya Al-Libi in Pakistan, he says."


    Ansar al-Sharia was accused of the attack by Libya's deputy ambassador to London, Ahmad Jibril. The BBC's Middle East correspondent Wyre Davies met with Ansar al-Sharia members earlier in the summer: "They did not deny involvement in anti-democratic stunts. But as for attacks on Western targets, they alleged that 'Western intelligence agencies' based in Libya were to blame because they wanted to undermine Sharia, Islamic law," our correspondent writes.

    The Yemen Times

    tweets: Photo: Protestors burning tires, American flag outside U.S. embassy #Sanaa #Yemen

    @26AIsmail, in Yemen,

    tweets: Protesters in #Yemen are not from the youth activists. No body knows so far.


    How did the attack on the US embassy in Benghazi happen? Read our timeline of events.


    What are the origins of the anti-Islamic video which is at the centre of the protests? The BBC's Alastair Leithead goes on the trail of the mystery film-maker "sambacile" who posted the YouTube video "Innocence of Muslims".

    Ali katouzian, in London, England,

    emails: I would really question the motive of those behind making this movie? I would be keen to know where they are from and what religion they follow and what origin they have?


    In the US, President Barack Obama has vowed to bring to justice those who carried out the attack that killed the US ambassador to Libya. But he said it would not harm ties between the US and the new Libyan government.

    1312: Stephen Evans BBC News, Berlin

    reports: "At the US embassy in Berlin, emergency services are attending an incident at the visa section. German television is showing pictures of men in all-over chemical protective suits. At least part of the building has been evacuated. There are some reports of a suspicious package, with people near it having had breathing difficulties."


    It is not yet clear whether the incident in Berlin is related to protests against the anti-Islam film.


    Security has been increased at US embassies and consulates around the world following the deaths in Benghazi, on the orders of President Obama.

    Atiaf Alwazir

    tweets: One protester outside #US embassy: "for me, this was not about the film, its more about the accumulation of violations by the US in #Yemen"


    In Sanaa, freelance journalist Iona Craig witnessed the protests at the US embassy. She told the BBC's Newshour programme that "soldiers were actually walking alongside the protesters at one point" and only later tried to disperse them.

    1332: Bilal Sarwary BBC News, Kabul

    reports: "During a national security meeting in Afghanistan, it was decided to block YouTube indefinitely. This was done to prevent violence. 'We have asked all internet providers to shut down YouTube,' a senior Afghan official at the ministry of communications told the BBC."

    1341: Stephen Evans BBC News, Berlin

    reports: "German police say the incident at the visa section of the US embassy in Berlin is over. A spokesman said there was no dangerous package. The alert was caused when one employee of the visa section felt ill, and two others then said they were not feeling well, either. The police said it was a false alarm."


    Following the protests in Yemen and Egypt, Afghan President Hamid Karzai has postponed a planned visit to Norway, fearing violence could erupt in his country. "The president, in light of the serious events in some Arab countries recently, finds it necessary to remain in Afghanistan," the Norwegian foreign ministry said.


    The Egyptian minister of the interior is now visiting the scene of the clashes around the American embassy and appealing for calm, Egyptian TV reports.

    Mohammed al-Asaadi

    tweets: My sister & her kids, who are visiting in Sanaa, are blocked by the #USAEmbassy and could not make it to my place since the morning. #Yemen

    US journalist Adam Baron

    tweets: US embassy spokesman confirms that all staff is "safe and accounted for" #yemen

    1405: Jon Leyne BBC News, Cairo

    reports: "The clashes in Cairo are now a distance of at least a few hundred metres away from the embassy itself. Security forces have formed a ring around the embassy."


    Thick smoke is pouring from a burnt out police car after it was set alight by protesters in Cairo half an hour ago. Some people at the scene tried to put the flames out using flags they were carrying, but the car is now a hollow black shell.

    Ibrahim Mothana

    tweets: John Brennan said anti-Americanism in Yemen did NOT increase. Can he please come and explain that to protesters in-front of the embassy?


    Middle East analyst Dr Omar Ashour has been speaking to the BBC World Service's Newshour about security in Libya: "The problem with the militias is they're decentralised in the sense that they don't have a central leadership with whom the government can negotiate disarmament and reintegration. The militias also have legitimacy in some areas because they were the ones who rose up quickly, took up arms, defended their neighbourhoods and so on. It will be an easier task for the prime minister to target the perpetrators of the attack on the American consulate and then after that form a comprehensive policy of demobilisation, disarmament, and reintegration."

    Bruce Scobie

    emails: I have always been a strong defender of people's right to freedom of religious expression and a particular defender of Muslims' rights in the US (as they often seem to get trampled on here). However, as horribly offensive as this movie might be, people have NO RIGHT whatsoever to kill, loot, maim, or riot over it.

    Protester with arms in victory salute

    A demonstrator faces off against riot police on a road leading to the US embassy in Cairo - more images from Thursday's protests in this gallery.


    Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood

    had this to say on its twitter feed about the protests earlier this week: "We r relieved none of @USEmbassyCairo staff were harmed & hope US-Eg relations will sustain turbulence of Tuesday's events."


    The US embassy in Cairo

    responded to the Muslim Brotherhood with this tweet: "@Ikhwanweb Thanks. By the way, have you checked out your own Arabic feeds? I hope you know we read those too."


    Seventy people have been injured in the clashes at the US embassy in Cairo, according to the Egyptian health ministry.

    Raman Awasthi

    tweets: India likely to ban film on Prophet Muhammad as anti-US protests spread


    Lebanon's Hezbollah movement has posted a statement condemning the film via the website of its TV channel al-Manar. "The film reflects the Zionist-US coalition's real position from Islam and Muslims. And in this context the statements of condemnation can no longer fool anybody," it says. The Pope is due to begin a visit to Lebanon on Friday.

    Canada's 570News

    tweets: The Canadian Embassy in Cairo has been closed for the rest of the day as a security precaution. #570News

    1515: Kim Ghattas BBC News, Washington

    reports: "To some extent these scenes are familiar - these kinds of anti-American protests are not unusual and are not a surprise for Americans. But within the Obama administration there is a lot of disappointment that the policies they have followed over the course of the last year in support of the Arab people who rose up against their dictators have not translated into a more longer-term good feeling towards the US."

    Jens Svensson, Denmark

    emails: Here we go again. A few years ago it was the Mohammad drawings now it is a film. What is the point of the film? Why was it made when everybody knows it offends over a billion Muslims. As with the drawings, the filmmaker should know it would end with costing lives. Western countries pride themselves with freedom of speech. But should that not come with some responsibility? I am not a Muslim but still condemn the film. I can't see the point in making it. What does the producer want to express/achieve with the film?


    US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton has called the film "disgusting and reprehensible" but tells a news conference in Washington: "There is no justification for responding to this video with violence. We condemn the violence that has resulted in the strongest terms and we greatly appreciate that many Muslims in the US and around the world have spoken out on this issue."


    Mrs Clinton goes on to say at the Washington news conference that it has been a "difficult week" for the US state department, referring to the death of the ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, during an attack at the US consulate in Benghazi.

    Yemen updates

    tweets: Sporadic shooting in Madina Sakania near the #USAEmbassy in Sa'wan area. Women & children are suffocated by tear gas in their houses. #Yemen


    Egypt's conservative Islamist Nour Party has said the assault on the US embassy in Cairo was wrong, as the embassy is US territory and should not be encroached upon, the Egypt Independent reports. The paper notes that some members of the party had participated in protests in front of the embassy.


    Libyan writer Hisham Matar, writing in the New York Times, asks whether an offensive film can really be to blame for the violence in Benghazi or whether, in fact, the country's "far right" are using the controversy the film generated to "disrupt progress and the development of democratic institutions".


    Benghazi, says Hisham Matar, is a city in mourning. "There is a deep and palpable sense that Benghazi, the proud birthplace of the revolution, has failed to protect a highly regarded guest."

    @ionacraig, freelance journalist in Sanaa, Yemen,

    tweets: To my knowledge no protesters were arrested yet they tried to arrest one journalist and beat up another. #Yemen #USEmbassy


    Dan Murphy of the Christian Science Monitor blogs that "interesting and convincing" points have been made on the suggestion that "there may be no anti-Islamic movie at all". Some have pointed to the fact that the most contentious scenes of dialogue in the film seem to have been dubbed in after shooting, he writes.

    Sakina, Lancashire, England,

    writes: "l am a life long Muslim and l am shocked at the deaths of those at the American Embassy, my thoughts and prayers are with their families. When l read the Quran from cover to cover there are countless times when peace and forbearance in the face of adversity are mentioned. I would urge any Muslim to remember this."


    Images of Chris Stevens, the US ambassador killed in an attack in Benghazi, are widely circulating on Libyan social media pages, with many users condemning the attack or promoting demonstrations to condemn it, BBC Monitoring reports. The Facebook page of the Libyan Youth Movement, which has some 24,500 "Likes", carries a picture of Stevens on its cover with the words "RIP Christopher Stevens 1960-2012".


    The new Libyan Prime Minister Mustafa Abushagur has told the BBC's Jeremy Bowen that "criminals" were responsible for the attack in Benghazi and that an investigation was under way to find those responsible. "I have been assured the US is sticking with us along this rocky road as they know we are determined to overcome these challenges," Mr Abushagur said.


    Addressing the question of insecurity in Libya, Mr Abushagur added: "The revolutionaries are the solution for us. We want them to be part of our security forces." He said that "those who commit violence don't know how to express themselves: this is part of our growth as a democracy, so you have to give us some time".

    Protesters run as police, unseen, open fire into the air near the US embassy in Sanaa

    In the Yemeni capital Sanaa, protesters run as police open fire during Thursday's protests near the US embassy.


    tweets: I'd like to thank @USEmbassySanaa staff for their tactful handling/non-handling of today's situation. Could have been much, much worse. #Yemen


    The attack that killed four Americans in Benghazi was an organised operation by heavily armed militants, a senior Libyan security official has told the Associated Press. Wanis al-Sharef, eastern Libya's deputy interior minister, told AP the attacks were suspected to have been timed to mark the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks and that the militants used civilians protesting over the film as cover for their action.


    Viewings of extracts of the film on YouTube have risen dramatically on Thursday, even as some governments have tried to block access to them, BBC Monitoring reports. One clip dubbed into Arabic has gone from having over 30,000 views on Wednesday to over 1m on Thursday.


    Several Egyptian Islamist groups have called for a mass protest over the film on Friday. The Muslim Brotherhood, Salafist parties, the Sufi Coalition, and non-religious groups including a football fans' group and the Revolutionary Youth Union are planning to take part in the protest after Friday prayers.

    Raja Imran Manzoor Khan, Luton, England,

    emails: You can be anti-Islam and have your views about it as a religion and faith but where Muslims feel aggrieved is when the person they most love and admire is ridiculed and poked fun at. Why his personality is attacked again and again in the name of freedom of expression when it hurts billions of Muslims and no action taken to stop it, is a question every Muslim asks.


    "A big advance" has been made in the investigation into the attack in Benghazi, new Libyan Prime Minister Mustafa Abushagur has told the AFP news agency. "We have some names and some photographs. Arrests have been made and more are under way as we speak," he said.


    The number of people injured in clashes outside the US embassy in Cairo has risen to 224, according to the Egyptian health ministry.

    Mona Eltahawy, columnist on Arab and Muslim issues

    tweets: Major concern: #USEmbassyCairo clashes will be used to reinstall Emergency Law. #Egypt

    Charlie Cooper

    emails: I would like to draw attention to the following Facebook page organising demonstrations across Libya in support of the late US ambassador and apologising for his death:


    The Egyptian al-Ahram newspaper reports on the row on Twitter between the Muslim Brotherhood and the US embassy in Cairo, saying it provides "a snapshot into the strains US-Egypt relations are under this week".

    Arabist a website on Arab politics and culture

    tweets: I'd like to know from Islamists who call for legal punishment over stupid film: what punishment do you think is appropriate?


    Police in the US have attended the home of a California resident who admitted involvement in the film at the heart of the controversy - more on the story here.

    Ali Farag in Benghazi

    told the BBC: It's a very bad film and I understand if people want to protest, but there's no need to kill people. And I understand that the authorities in the US can't do anything to stop individuals creating such films. Most people here are against these kind of attacks. There are protests going on right now in Benghazi and my son is at the protest. They are not protesting against the film, but against the violent reaction to it.


    Hizb ut-Tahrir, a radical Islamist group banned in Egypt and in most Arab countries, has been distributing leaflets in Tahrir Square in Cairo, reports BBC Arabic, which has obtained a copy of one of the leaflets bearing the title "The Infidel West".


    That concludes our live coverage of the protests that have spread across the Arab world over an anti-Islam film made in the US. Please stay with the BBC News website for all the latest updates on world events. Thank you for joining us.


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