Egyptians Breach U.S. Embassy in Anger Over Film

The Slatest
Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Sept. 11 2012 8:00 PM

Libyans Set Fire to U.S. Consulate, Protesters Breach U.S. Embassy in Egypt in Anger Over Film

A vehicle sits smoldering in flames after being set on fire inside the US consulate.
A vehicle sits smoldering in flames after being set on fire inside the US consulate compound in Benghazi late on Tuesday.

Photo by STR/AFP/Getty Images.

UPDATE: An American staff member of the U.S. consulate in the Libyan city of Benghazi died after gunmen attacked the compound on Tuesday evening. An unspecified number of Americans were also reportedly injured, according to Reuters.

Tuesday, Sept. 11 at 6 p.m.: Anger over a movie that allegedly insults the Prophet Mohammed appears to be spreading. First, a group of protesters scaled the wall of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and pulled down an American flag in what was the first time the U.S. Embassy in Cairo has ever been breached. Later, militants in Libya stormed the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, the country’s second-largest city, and set it on fire to protest the video, reports the Associated Press.

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It was not immediately clear what film the protesters were referring to, but the Washington Post points out that allegations of the movie had been in the Egyptian media for several days. The AP refers to "a video being promoted by an extreme anti-Muslim Egyptian Christian campaigner in the U.S." that "depicts Muhammad as a fraud, showing him having sex and calling for massacres." It really isn't clear because the AP isn't giving many clues but it seems this might be the movie in question. The AP interviews a Sam Bacile, an American citizen who said he produced and directed the movie, and the video seems to be in his YouTube account.

Or it could be something else. A prestigious mosque in Egypt condemned a symbolic “trial” of the Prophet Mohammed that was organized by a U.S. group that included Terry Jones, the pastor who triggered riots in Afghanistan by threatening to burn the Quran. Reuters points to standupamericanow.org, where a “trial and execution” of Prophet Mohammed will be broadcast on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, which the group appears to have dubbed “International Judge Muhammad Day.”

When protesters took down the U.S. flag in the Cairo embassy, some tore it up and showed off pieces to the cameras. Others burned the remains outside the embassy grounds, reports Reuters. According to Egypt’s Ahram Online, no one appears to have been injured in the demonstration. A CNN producer on the ground says warning shots were fired, but it's not clear who did the firing.

Kristen Chick of the Christian Science Monitor reports that most of the protesters had never seen the film but had heard about it from religious leaders or read about it on social networks.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.

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