Al-Qaida calls for more attacks on embassies
Al-Qaida’s most active branch in the Middle East called for more attacks on U.S. embassies Saturday to “set the fires blazing,” seeking to co-opt outrage over an anti-Muslim film even as the wave of protests that swept 20 countries this week eased.
Senior Muslim religious authorities issued their strongest pleas yet against resorting to violence, trying to defuse Muslim anger over the film a day after new attacks on U.S. and Western embassies that left at least eight protesters dead.
The top cleric in U.S. ally Saudi Arabia denounced the film but said it can’t really hurt Islam, a contrast to protesters’ frequently heard cries that the movie amounts to a humiliating attack that requires retaliation. He urged Muslims not to be “dragged by anger” into violence. The head of the Sunni Muslim world’s pre-eminent religious institution, Egypt’s Al-Azhar, backed peaceful protests but said Muslims should counter the movie by reviving Islam’s moderate ideas.
Protesters cleared in Cairo
In the Egyptian capital Cairo, where the first protests against the movie that denigrates the Prophet Muhammad erupted, police finally succeeded in clearing away protesters who had been clashing with security forces for days near the U.S. Embassy. Police arrested 220 people and a concrete wall was erected across the road leading to the embassy.
Violence in Australia
No significant protests were reported in the Mideast Saturday; the only report of violence linked to the film came from Australia, where riot police clashed with about 200 protesters at the U.S. Consulate in Sydney.
A Southern California filmmaker linked to the anti-Islamic movie inflaming protests across the Middle East was interviewed Saturday by federal probation officers at a Los Angeles sheriff’s station, authorities said.
Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, 55, was interviewed for about half an hour at the station shortly after 12 a.m. in his hometown of Cerritos, Calif., said Steve Whitmore, spokesman for the Los Angeles County sheriff’s department.
After that, deputies dropped Nakoula off at an undisclosed location.
“He is gone. We don’t know where he went,” Whitmore said. “He said he is not going back to his home.”
Federal officials are investigating whether Nakoula, who has been convicted of financial crimes, has violated the terms of his five-year probation.
U.S. SENDS SPIES, DRONES, MARINES TO LIBYA
The U.S. is sending more spies, Marines and drones to Libya, trying to speed the search for those who killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans, but the investigation is complicated by a chaotic security picture in the post-revolutionary country and limited American and Libyan intelligence resources.
The CIA has fewer people available to send, stretched thin from tracking conflicts across the Middle East, Africa and Asia. Much of the team dispatched to Libya during the revolution had been sent onward to the Syrian border, U.S. officials say.
And the Libyans have barely re-established full control of their country, much less rebuilt their intelligence service, less than a year after the overthrow of dictator Moammar Gadhafi.
Tunisia condemns attack
Tunisia’s governing moderate Islamist party condemned the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Tunis and the neighboring American school, saying Saturday that such violence threatens the country’s progress toward democracy after decades of dictatorship.
The embassy compound and school were surrounded by Tunisian police and army vehicles and personnel on Saturday, a day after several thousand demonstrators angry over a film that insults the Prophet Muhammad stormed the compound in Tunis. They tore down the American flag and raised an Islamic one, while looting and burning buildings.
Four demonstrators died, including two following operations in the hospital, and 49 people were injured.
President condemns violence
Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaore is calling on Muslims to stop using violence as a way of expression.
Compaore, a Christian, said that violence should not be the response of Muslims to provocations, even from the maker of the film of the Prophet Muhammad. Compaore described the filmmaker as a “brainless man who thinks he has the right to despise the religious feelings of others.”
Compaore deplored the street violence of recent days, saying the “credibility and greatness” of Islam is not through violence.