Egyptian protesters threw stones at riot police officers during clashes near Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo on Friday.
Anti-American rage that began this week over a video insult to Islam spread to nearly 20 countries across the Middle East and beyond on Friday, with violent and sometimes deadly protests that convulsed the birthplaces of the Arab Spring revolutions, breached two more United States Embassies and targeted diplomatic properties of Germany and Britain.
The broadening of the protests appeared to reflect a pent-up resentment of Western powers in general, and defied pleas for restraint from world leaders, including the new Islamist president of Egypt, Mohamed Morsi, whose country was the instigator of the demonstrations that erupted three days earlier on the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
The anger stretched from North Africa to South Asia and Indonesia and in some cases was surprisingly destructive. In Tunis, an American-run school that was untouched during the revolution nearly two years ago was completely ransacked. In eastern Afghanistan, protesters burned an effigy of President Obama, who had made an outreach to Muslims a thematic pillar of his first year in office.
The State Department confirmed that protesters had penetrated the perimeters of the American Embassies in the Tunisian and Sudanese capitals, and said that 65 embassies or consulates around the world had issued emergency messages about threats of violence, and that those facilities in Islamic countries were curtailing diplomatic activity. The Pentagon said it sent Marines to protect embassies in Yemen and Sudan.
The wave of unrest not only increased concern in the West but raised new questions about political instability in Egypt, Tunisia and other Middle East countries where newfound freedoms, once suppressed by autocratic leaders, have given way to an absence of authority. The protests also seemed to highlight the unintended consequences of America’s support of movements to overthrow those autocrats, which have empowered Islamist groups that remain implacably hostile to the West.
In a number of these countries, particularly Egypt and Tunisia, he said, “the state has lost a lot of its capacity to govern effectively. Paradoxically, that has made it more likely that events like the video will make people take to the streets and act in the way they did.
Some of the most serious violence targeted the compound housing the German and British Embassies in Khartoum, the Sudanese capital, causing minor damage to the British property but major fire damage to the German one. The foreign ministers of both countries strongly protested the assault, which The Associated Press said had been instigated by a prominent sheik exhorting protesters to storm the German Embassy to avenge what he called anti-Muslim graffiti on Berlin mosques.
The police fired tear gas to repulse attacks in Khartoum, where about 5,000 demonstrators had massed, news reports said, before they moved on to the United States
In Tunis, the United States Embassy was assaulted at midday by protesters who smashed windows and set fires before security forces routed them in violent clashes that left at least 3 dead and 28 hurt. Witnesses and officials said no Americans were hurt and most had left earlier.
The worst damage was inflicted on the American Cooperative School of Tunis
“It’s ransacked,” the director, Allan Bredy, said in a telephone interview. “We were thinking it was something the Tunisia government would keep under control. We had no idea they would allow things to go as wildly as they did.
The school’s director of security, David Santiago, said a group of staff members formed a posse armed with baseball bats to chase lingering looters away hours after the assault. “Our elementary school library is burning as we speak,” he said angrily as he and his colleagues sought to assess the damage. “It’s complete chaos.”
Thousands of PalestiniansGaza City
Witnesses in Cairo said protests that first flared Tuesday grew in scope on Friday, with demonstrators throwing rocks and gasoline bombs near the American Embassy and the police firing tear gas. The Egyptian news media said more than 220 people had been injured in clashes so far.
In the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi, where J. Christopher Stevens, the American ambassador, and three other Americans were killed Tuesday, militias fired rockets at what they thought were American drones overhead, prompting the government to temporarily close the airport as a precaution. The bodies of Mr. Stevens and the others killed in the Libya attack were returned to the United States on Friday.
In Lebanon, where Pope Benedict XVI was visiting, one person was killed and 25 were injured as protesters attacked restaurants. There was also turmoil in Yemen, Bangladesh, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, India, Pakistan and Iraq, and demonstrations in Malaysia. In Nigeria, troops fired into the air to disperse protesters marching on the city of Jos, Reuters reported. In Syria, about 200 protesters chanted anti-American slogans outside the long-closed American Embassy in Damascus, news reports said.
In the Egyptian Sinai, a group of Bedouins stormed an international peacekeepers’ camp and set fire to an observation tower, according to Al Ahram Online, a state-owned, English-language Web site. Three people, two Colombians and one Egyptian, were injured in the ensuing clashes.
In Yemen, baton-wielding security forces backed by water cannons blocked streets near the American Embassy a day after protesters breached the outer security perimeter there, and officials said two people were killed in clashes with the police. Still, a group of several dozen protesters gathered near the diplomatic post, carrying placards and shouting slogans.
In Iraq, where the heavily fortified American Embassy sits on the banks of the Tigris River inside Baghdad’s Green Zone and is out of reach to most Iraqis, thousands protested after Friday Prayer in Sunni and Shiite cities alike.
Raising banners with Islamic slogans and denouncing the United States and Israel, Iraqis called for the expulsion of American diplomats from the country and demanded that the American government apologize for the incendiary film and take legal action against its creators.
In Egypt, in particular, leaders scrambled to repair deep strains with Washington provoked by their initial response to attacks on the American Embassy on Tuesday, tacitly acknowledging that they erred in their response by focusing far more on anti-American domestic opinion than on condemning the violence.<
The attacks squeezed Mr. Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood between conflicting pressures from Washington and their Islamic constituency at home, a senior Brotherhood official acknowledged. During a 20-minute phone call Wednesday night, Mr. Obama warned Mr. Morsi that relations would be jeopardized if the authorities in Cairo failed to protect American diplomats and stand more firmly against anti-American attacks.
On Friday, Mr. Morsi, on a scheduled state visit to Rome, called attacks on foreign embassies “absolutely unacceptable.”