DUBAI, (AFP) — Al-Qaeda said a deadly attack on US diplomats in Libya was in revenge for the killing of its number two, monitors reported Saturday, as Washington deployed forces to cope with global violence over a film mocking Islam.
Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) also called for more violence against US diplomatic missions in the Middle East and Africa, and urged Muslims living in the West to attack American interests, SITE Intelligence Group said.
The terror network’s Yemen offshoot did not claim direct responsibility for Tuesday’s attack on the US consulate in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi that killed ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.
But it said the killing of Al-Qaeda deputy leader Sheikh Abu Yahya al-Libi in a drone strike in June “increased the enthusiasm and determination of the sons of (Libyan independence hero) Omar al-Mukhtar to take revenge upon those who attack our Prophet,” according to SITE.
“May the expulsion of embassies and consulates lead to the liberation of Arab lands from the American hegemony and arrogance,” it said in another statement, adding it was a “duty” for Muslims on Western soil to attack US interests.
In Afghanistan, Taliban armed with guns and rockets stormed the heavily fortified Camp Bastion where Britain’s Prince Harry is deployed, killing two US Marines in an assault the militia said was to avenge the American-made film.
The attack in Helmand province, which continued until Saturday morning, came after at least 11 protesters died on Friday as police battled to defend US missions from mobs in Egypt, Lebanon, Sudan, Tunisia and Yemen.
Symbols of US influence in cities across the Muslim world have come under attack — embassies and schools as well as fast food chains — as protesters vented their fury at the low-budget film, “Innocence of Muslims.”
US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta said Washington was configuring its forces to be able to cope with widespread violence following its deployment of Marine counter-terrorism units to Libya and Yemen and its stationing of two destroyers off the North African coast.
“We have to be prepared in the event that these demonstrations get out of control,” Panetta told Foreign Policy magazine.
He did not offer any specifics. But the magazine said the Pentagon was discussing, but had not yet decided, whether to send a third platoon of 50 specially trained Marines to protect the US embassy in Khartoum.
Guards on the roof of the embassy fired warning shots on Friday as the compound was breached by protesters waving Islamic banners, after earlier ransacking parts of the British and German missions in the Sudanese capital.
The US embassy compounds in Egypt and Yemen have also been breached in the past week.
Panetta said on Friday it was still too early to say exactly what happened in Benghazi where there have been suggestions that Al-Qaeda sympathisers rather than angry Muslim protesters may have been responsible.
“It’s something that’s under assessment and under investigation, to determine just exactly what happened here,” he said.
The head of Libya’s national assembly, Mohammed al-Megaryef, said foreign elements could have been involved in the planned and “meticulously executed” attack, which came on the anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.
In Friday night’s attack in Afghanistan, the assailants managed to penetrate the air base and damaged several aircraft, although military spokesman Major Adam Wojack declined to say what type or how many.
Wojack said 18 insurgents were killed — including a suicide bomber. Prince Harry was never in danger, officials confirmed.
A Taliban spokesman said the attack was to avenge the anti-Islam movie.
“Last night, a number of mujahedeen fighters have carried out suicide attacks on Camp Bastion of Helmand in revenge for the insulting movie by the Americans,” spokesman Qari Yousuf Ahmadi told AFP by telephone.
The sprawling base is home to more than 28,000 people, and the attack raised serious questions about security.
Police in Sydney fired pepper spray to contain protesters trying to enter the building housing the US consulate on Saturday, as Australia became another focus of disturbances.
Hundreds also demonstrated in Indonesia and the Maldives.
In Somalia, the Al-Qaeda-linked Shebab militia, which controls large swathes of the country, called on Muslims to launch revenge attacks on Western targets.
“The Shebab mujahedeen are urging people of Somalia to show their love for Islam and particularly to our Prophet Mohammed by making attacks against the West,” Shebab spokesman Ali Mohamud Rage told AFP by telephone.
“I know the images on our televisions are disturbing,” Obama said in his weekly radio and Internet address.
“But let us never forget that for every angry mob, there are millions who yearn for the freedom, and dignity, and hope that our flag represents.”
Obama said his administration was doing everything it could to protect Americans serving abroad.
“We are in contact with governments around the globe, to strengthen our cooperation, and underscore that every nation has a responsibility to help us protect our people,” he said.