U.S. braces for more violence from anti-Muslim film
BY MATTHEW LEE & KIMBERLY DOZIER Associated Press
Friday, September 14, 2012
9/14/12 at 5:22 AM
The Obama administration was caught by surprise by the ferocity of the Sept. 11 attack against the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that killed the ambassador and three other Americans. Now it is bracing for another potential eruption of violent demonstrations in parts of the Muslim world after Friday's weekly prayers - traditionally a time of protest in the Middle East and North Africa.
Angry demonstrations over an anti-Islam video already have occurred in Egypt and Yemen, and officials theorize that well-armed Libyan extremists hijacked a similar protest in Benghazi, where several Libyan security guards also were killed. The U.S. put all of its diplomatic missions overseas on high alert, and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton delivered an explicit denunciation of the video as the administration sought to pre-empt further turmoil at its embassies and consulates.
"The United States government had absolutely nothing to do with this video," she said before a meeting with the foreign minister of Morocco at the State Department. "We absolutely reject its content and message."
"To us, to me personally, this video is disgusting and reprehensible," Clinton said. "It appears to have a deeply cynical purpose: to denigrate a great religion and to provoke rage."
U.S. officials said they suspect that the attack at the Benghazi consulate, which had also been the target of an unsuccessful attack in June, may have been only tangentially related to the film. But they also stressed there had been no advance warning or intelligence to suggest a threat in Libya that would warrant boosting security, even on the 11th anniversary of the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
President Barack Obama, speaking at a campaign event in Golden, Colo., vowed that the attackers would be punished. "I want people around the world to hear me," he said. "To all those who would do us harm: No act of terror will go unpunished. I will not dim the light of the values that we proudly present to the rest of the world. No act of violence shakes the resolve of the United States of America."
Despite the belief that the militants who hit the consulate did so separately from the protests over the film, U.S. officials are deeply concerned that extremists may take advantage of non-violent demonstrations to copycat the Benghazi raid, or that otherwise peaceful protesters may be incited to attack because of the video, particularly on Friday.
It's virtually impossible to predict when a crowd might form and turn violent, according to retired U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte, who served as chief of mission at five posts, including Iraq, and is a former director of national intelligence.
"These things can be mobilized on the spur of the moment, set off by a spark," especially in places such as Egypt and Libya where the ruling strongmen have just fallen, Negroponte said Thursday. "When you get rid of authoritarian regimes, there's little or no institutional framework left. ... That's why there's disorder and chaos" that is so easily hijacked, he said.
Egypt's ruling Muslim Brotherhood called for demonstrations after Friday prayers as did authorities in Iran and the Gaza strip. Large protests were expected in Baghdad and Iraq's second-largest city, Basra, as well as Amman, Jordan. Israel was stepping up security in anticipation of demonstrations after Muslim prayers.
Original Print Headline: U.S. braces for more attacks
Yemeni protesters climb the gate of the U.S. Embassy during a protest about a film ridiculing Islam's Prophet Muhammad in Sanaa, Yemen, on Thursday. HANI MOHAMMED/Associated Press