KHARTOUM, (Reuters) – Sudanese demonstrators incensed by a film that insults the Prophet Mohammad broke into the German embassy in Khartoum on Friday and hoisted an Islamic flag, while one person was killed in protests in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli.
The obscure California-made production had triggered an attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya’s eastern city of Benghazi that killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans on Tuesday, the anniversary of the Sept 11, 2001 al Qaeda attacks on the United States.
Rallies against the film were also staged on Friday in Egypt, Yemen, Afghanistan, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Lebanon, Iran and Iraq.
Protesters clashed with police near the U.S. embassy in Cairo before a nationwide protest called by the Muslim Brotherhood which propelled Egypt’s Islamist president Mohamed Mursi to power.
Police in the Sudanese capital fired tear gas to try to disperse 5,000 protesters who had ringed the German embassy and nearby British mission. A Reuters witness said police stood by as a crowd forced its way into Germany’s mission.
Demonstrators hoisted a black Islamic flag saying in white letters “there is no God but God and Mohammed is his prophet”. They smashed windows, cameras and furniture in the building and then started a fire.
Staff at Germany’s embassy were safe “for the moment”, Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said in Berlin. He also told Khartoum’s envoy to Berlin that Sudan must protect diplomatic missions on its soil.
Witnesses said police fired tear gas at thousands of protesters to stop them approaching the U.S. embassy outside Khartoum.
Sudan’s Foreign Ministry had criticized Germany for allowing a protest last month by right-wing activists carrying caricatures of the Prophet and for Chancellor Angela Merkel giving an award in 2010 to a Danish cartoonist who depicted the Prophet in 2005 triggering protests across the Islamic world.
BASHIR UNDER PRESSURE
President Omar Hassan al-Bashir is under pressure from Islamists who feel the government has given up the religious values of his 1989 Islamist coup.
The official body of Sudan’s Islamic scholars called for the faithful to defend the Prophet peacefully, but at a meeting of Islamists, some leaders had said they would march on the German and U.S. embassies and demanded the ambassadors be expelled.
“Tomorrow we will all get out to defend Prophet Mohammad … We will do this peacefully but with strength,” Salah el-Din Awad, general secretary of the scholars’ body in Khartoum state told reporters after meeting government officials on Thursday.
The Foreign Ministry said in its statement: “The German chancellor unfortunately welcomed this offence to Islam in a clear violation of all meanings of religious co-existence and tolerance between religions.”
Sudan used to host prominent militants in the 1990s, such as Osama bin Laden, but the government has sought to distance itself from radicals to improve ties with the West.
A Lebanese security source said the man was killed in Tripoli as protesters tried to storm a government building.
Earlier, a U.S. fast food restaurant was set alight. Twelve members of the security forces were wounded by stones thrown by protesters, the source said.
The protests coincided with Pope Benedict’s arrival in Lebanon for a three-day visit.
Protesters also clashed with police in Yemen, where one person died and 15 were injured on Thursday when the U.S. embassy compound was stormed.
In Nigeria, where radical Islamist sect Boko Haram has killed hundreds this year in an insurgency, the government put police on alert and stepped up security around foreign missions.
U.S. and other Western embassies in other Muslim countries had tightened security, fearing anger at the film may prompt attacks on their compounds after the weekly worship.
The protests present U.S. President Barack Obama with a new foreign policy crisis less than two months before seeking re-election and tests Washington’s relations with democratic governments it helped to power across the Arab world.
Obama has vowed to bring those responsible for the Benghazi attack to justice, and the United States sent warships towards Libya which one official said was to give flexibility for any future action.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Washington had nothing to do with the crudely made film posted on the Internet, which she called “disgusting and reprehensible”, and the Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff called a Christian pastor in Florida to ask him to withdraw his support for it.
Protesters in Afghanistan set fire to an effigy of Obama and burned a U.S. flag after Friday prayers in the eastern province of Nangarhar.
Directing their anger against the U.S. pastor who supported the film, tribal leaders in province also agreed to put a $100,000 bounty on his head.
About 10,000 people held a noisy protest in the Bangladeshi capital. They burned U.S. flags, chanted anti-U.S. slogans and demanded punishment for the offenders, but were stopped from marching to the U.S. embassy. There was no violence.
Thousands of Iranians held nationwide protests.