Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for September 14, 2012

Newsline: Crowds storm embassies in Muslim countries

The angry demonstrations against an anti-Islam film spread to their widest extent yet around the Middle East and other Muslim countries, as security forces in Egypt and Yemen fired tear gas and clashed with protesters to keep them away from U.S. embassies. Protests were held in cities from Egypt to Pakistan after weekly Friday Muslim prayers, where many clerics in their mosques sermons denounced an obscure movie produced in the United States that denigrated the Prophet Muhammad. The spread of protests comes after attacks earlier this week on the U.S. Embassies in Cairo and the Yemeni capital Sanaa and on a U.S. consulate in Libya, where the ambassador and three other Americans were killed. After security forces earlier this week stood aside in the face of protesters, Yemen and Egypt made efforts Friday to contain them. In an apparent attempt to patch up strained ties with the United States, Egypt’s Islamist president, Mohammed Morsi, went on state TV and urged Muslims to protect foreign diplomatic missions – his most direct public move to contain protests. In east Jerusalem, Israeli police stopped a crowd of around 400 Palestinians from marching on the U.S. consulate to protest the film. Demonstrators threw bottles and stones at police, who responded by firing stun grenades. Four protesters were arrested. Security forces in Yemen shot live rounds in the air and fired tear gas at a crowd of around 2000 protesters trying to march to the U.S. Embassy in the capital, Sanaa. Though outnumbered by protesters, security forces were able to keep the crowd about a block away from the mission. A day earlier, hundreds of protesters chanting “death to America” stormed the embassy compound in Sanaa and burned the American flag. The embassy said nobody was harmed. A small, peaceful demonstration was held Friday outside the U.S. Embassy in the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur.



Newsline: Protesters Target British, German Embassy In Sudan

Germany’s Foreign Minister says the country’s embassy in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum has been stormed by protesters and set partially on fire. Guido Westerwelle told reporters in Berlin on Friday that the Embassy building was “partially in flames but fortunately… the employees are safe.” He says the demonstrators are apparently protesting against an anti-Islam film produced in the United States that denigrates the Prophet Muhammad. The BBC reports that protesters have attacked the German and British embassies in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum. Demonstrators reportedly tore down the German flag and raised an Islamist banner. According to an AFP reporter, more than 5,000 protesters hit the streets in the Sudanese capital on Friday to protest.


Newsline: Protests near U.S. Embassy in Cairo continue after Obama warning

Protests outside the U.S. Embassy in Cairo continued into Friday, after U.S. President Barack Obama issued what is being seen as a stern warning to Egypt that relations between the two countries will be shaped by “how they respond to this incident.” “I don’t think that we would consider them an ally, but we don’t consider them an enemy,” Obama told Telemundo in an interview to be aired Thursday night. In the interview, recorded Wednesday, Obama said that if Egypt takes actions that “indicate they’re not taking responsibilities, as all other countries do where we have embassies, I think that’s going to be a real big problem.” Meanwhile, violent protests — sparked by outrage over an anti-Islam film made in the United States and posted online — marked their fourth day in Cairo. The film, which denigrates the Prophet Mohammed, has sparked protests across the region. Clouds of tear gas wafted over the hulks of burned-out cars Thursday as hundreds of demonstrators battled police 300 yards from the embassy. The demonstrators threw rocks and Molotov cocktails at police and chanted, “With our souls, with our blood, we will sacrifice for you, Prophet Mohammed.” At least 224 people were injured, according to Egyptian state television, Nile TV. On Thursday, White House spokesman Jay Carney said Obama used the correct “diplomatic and legal terms” in that the United States and Egypt do not have a formal alliance or mutual defense treaty. But, he said, Egypt remains “a longstanding partner” of the United States, and U.S. officials have no intention of cutting aid to the country.


Newsline: Embassy attack in Libya a planned, twin operation

Heavily armed militants used a protest of an anti-Islam film as a cover in their deadly attack on the U.S. Consulate, screaming “God is great!” as they scaled its outer walls and descended on the main building, a witness and a senior Libyan security official said. The account, the most detailed yet of the rampage that killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans, came as the Libyan government said four people suspected in the attacks had been arrested and more were being sought. The security official, eastern Libya’s deputy interior minister, Wanis el-Sharef, said it was a two-pronged attack. He said that hours after the crowd stormed the consulate Tuesday night, the militants raided a safe house in the compound just as U.S. and Libyan security arrived to evacuate staff members, suggesting infiltrators within the security forces may have tipped off the militants to the location of the safe house. Killed in the attack were U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, information management officer Sean Smith and Tyrone S. Woods and Glen A. Doherty, former Navy SEALs who provided security at the consulate. Stevens and another American were killed in the consulate during the initial violence, as plainclothes Libyan security were evacuating the consulate’s staff to the safe house about a mile away. The second assault took place several hours later and targeted the safe house – a villa inside the grounds of the city’s equestrian club – killing two Americans and wounding a number of Libyans and Americans.


Newsline: Indonesia police on alert for U.S. Embassy protest

Indonesian leaders and a prominent cleric have urged calm in the world’s largest Muslim majority nation ahead of expected protests over an anti-Islam film that has sparked anger among followers. Jakarta police spokesman Col. Rikwanto says the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta did not request any increased security, but 250 riot police have been put on alert. The embassy issued an e-mail to American citizens saying a demonstration with an estimated 300 people was expected after Friday prayers.


Newsline: Canadian embassy in Cairo shut as a ‘precaution’

Prime Minister Stephen Harper says he’s “very comfortable” with Canada’s decision to close its embassy in Iran, especially in light of the violence threatening U.S. diplomatic outposts in the Middle East this week. “When you can’t be certain, as we can no longer be certain, of the security of our diplomatic personnel, this is the measure we have to take,” Harper told Sun TV on the same day Ottawa announced it’s also temporarily closing the Canadian embassy in Cairo, where protests over an anti-Islam film have been targeting Western diplomatic missions. “We assume our diplomats can conduct the business of the country or their respective countries free from fear of persecution or violence,” Harper said. “They are not signing up for military service.” “As a security precaution, and to ensure the protection of Canadian staff, we have closed our Embassy in Cairo for the day,” Department of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Rick Roth told CTV News in an an email Thursday. The Canadian embassy is located in Cairo’s Garden City neighbourhood, close to the American mission. An increased police presence managed to keep the mob away from the embassy grounds Thursday, however. Roth did not provide details of security precautions being taken at the Canadian mission in Cairo, but did say, “We are monitoring events closely and taking appropriate security measures.”