Protests and attacks continued at Western embassies across the Middle East and North Africa today, and at this point they have little relationship to the anti-Muslim film “The Innocence of Muslims.” A reporter for the Times of London asked protesters outside the US Embassy in Sanaa, Yemen, yesterday if they watched the clip of the film online, and to a man all of them said they hadn’t. The film is a pretext to stir up sentiments among a small but determined band of agitators. I’m not sure we can say too much about the sentiments of the populations of these Arab countries as a whole, but we can say that they contain at least an element of anti-Westernism.
Throughout the region, the US tightened security and governments engaged in running battles with their own people. In Egypt, security tightened as protests raged outside the US Embassy in Cairo for a fourth day. In the Sudan, the German and British Embassies were attacked and infiltrated. 5,000 protesters in Khartoum broke into the German Embassy and tore down the flag, replacing it with what Der Spiegel described as an “Islamist banner.” Eventually they set the embassy on fire. Reuters reports that protesters have “jumped over the wall” at the US Embassy in Sudan. With Friday being the traditional day of protest during the Arab uprising, an increase in the demonstrations should have been expected.
Meanwhile, we have more information about that attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya, which killed four Americans, including the US Ambassador. One eyewitness says that armed Islamists stormed the consulate before any spontaneous protests occurred.
The guard, interviewed Thursday in the hospital where he is being treated for five shrapnel wounds in one leg and two bullet wounds in the other, said that the consulate area was quiet – “there wasn’t a single ant outside,” he said – until about 9:35 p.m., when as many as 125 armed men descended on the compound from all directions.
The men lobbed grenades into the compound, wounding the guard and knocking him to the ground, then stormed through the facility’s main gate, shouting “God is great” and moving to one of the many villas that make up the consulate compound. He said there had been no warning that an attack was imminent.
“Wouldn’t you expect if there were protesters outside that the Americans would leave?” the guard said.
The guard, located by searching hospitals for people injured Tuesday night, said he was 27 years old but declined to give his name. He asked that the hospital where he is being treated not be identified for fear that militants would track him down and kill him. He said he was able to escape by telling one of the attackers that he was only a gardener at the compound. The attacker took him to the hospital, the guard said.
Adding to this is the fact that a second attack occurred at the supposedly secret safehouse to which the consulate personnel were led after the initial fighting. Libyan authorities have made arrests in the attack, but even they don’t sound entirely confident they have the right perpetrators. The group they blamed for the attack, Ansar al Sharia, claims that they had nothing to do with it, and that rogue members of their own group may have carried it out.