Anti-American fury spreads to Sydney

Fury about a film that insults the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) tore across the Middle East after weekly prayers on Friday with protesters attacking US embassies and burning American flags as the Pentagon rushed to bolster security at its missions.

At least seven people were killed as local police struggled to repel assaults after the prayers in Tunisia and Sudan, while there was new violence in Egypt and Yemen, reported Reuters.

Three days after the amateurish film of obscure origin triggered an attack on the US consulate in the Libyan city of Benghazi that killed the ambassador and three other Americans on September 11, President Barack Obama led a ceremony to honour the returning dead and vowed to "stand fast" against the violence.

"The United States will never retreat from the world," said Obama, who in seeking re-election must defend his record on protecting US interests.

For a third day, television pictures of flames licking around embassy compounds and masked youths exchanging rocks for teargas from riot police were the dominant images. Most diplomatic staff were absent, as most of the region marked the weekend.

But bullets flew. In Tunis, at least two people were killed and 29 were wounded, the government said, after police gunfire near the U.S. embassy in the North African city that was the model for last year's pro-democracy revolutions.

Riot police clash with protestors in Sydney

Meanwhile, protests spread to Sydney, reported AFP. Riot police clashed with about 200 protestors who rallied in downtown Sydney, reports AP.

In Sydney, Saturday shoppers looked on in surprise as protesters, including children, shouted "Down, down USA" and waved banners such as "Behead all those who insult the Prophet".

Demonstrators were pushed back from the steps outside the consulate by police, provoking anger among some in the crowd, many of whom had brought their children with them.

"They were aggravating the situation by pushing our brothers," Dib said. "This is supposed to be a peaceful protest."

US positioning in response to protests

According to an AFP report, the US is positioning military forces so that it can respond to unrest in as many as 17 or 18 places, Defence Secretary Leon Panetta announced late Friday.

"We have to be prepared in the event that these demonstrations get out of control," Panetta told Foreign Policy magazine.

He did not offer any specifics. But the magazine said that the Pentagon was discussing, but had not yet decided, whether to send a third platoon of 50 specially trained Marines to protect the US Embassy in Sudan that found itself on Friday under assault. 

If approved, this deployment will follow the roughly 100 Marines that already have landed in Libya and Yemen.

The protests broke out when Muslims emerged from mosques following weekly prayers to voice their anger at a crude film made in the United States by a right-wing Christian group that ridicules the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH).

US ambassador Chris Stevens and the three other Americans died Tuesday when a mob torched the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

Panetta argued it was too early to say what exactly happened in Benghazi and who was to blame for the attacks.

"It's something that's under assessment and under investigation, to determine just exactly what happened here," he said.

Al Qaeda in Yemen urges Muslims to kill US diplomats

The Yemen-based branch of Al Qaeda urged Muslims to step up protests and kill more US diplomats, reported Reuters.

 "Whoever comes across America's ambassadors or emissaries should follow the example of Omar al-Mukhtar's descendants ( Libyans), who killed the American ambassador," the group said, referring to Tuesday's attack on the US consulate in the Libyan city of Benghazi. 

 "Let the step of kicking out the embassies be a step towards liberating Muslim countries from the American hegemony," a statement posted on an Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) website on Saturday said.


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