Angry demonstrators mobbed the United States embassy in Yemen on Thursday, continuing a series of attacks on American diplomatic locations that began earlier this week. Fueled by outrage over a film seen as blasphemous to Islam, a group of protesters stormed the heavily fortified embassy in Sanaa.
Television images showed men jumping over protective walls, burning tires and a mob outside the embassy in the capital city. "We can see a fire inside the compound and security forces are firing in the air. The demonstrators are fleeing and then charging back," a witness told Reuters.
Initial reports said that security guards had fired warning shots into the air in hopes of discouraging the demonstrators from entering into the compound. Local media later reported that people had been injured when they opened fire, although details of the incident remained uncertain.
Since Tuesday there have been protests in a number of countries over a provocative anti-Islam film with ties to Coptic Christians called "Innocence of Muslims" that mocks the prophet Muhammad. Demonstrations turned bloody in Libya, where armed protesters attacked the US consulate in Benghazi, killing Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other US employees. The same day, protestors in the Egyptian capital of Cairo overran the US embassy there, tearing down and burning an American flag. Renewed protests near the embassy in Cairo on Thursday resulted in a number of injuries after clashes with security forces.
There were also reports that hundreds of protesters chanting "Death to America" had gathered outside the Swiss Embassy in Tehran, which handles US interests because the country has no formal diplomatic relations with Iran.
Marines Deployed to Libya
Officials in Washington have increased security at US installations around the world, and are now looking into whether the incidents may have been planned by terrorists in connection with the Tuesday anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks. On Wednesday, the US also deployed an elite group of Marines from Spain and two destroyers to the Libyan coast in response to the rampage there, which resulted in the first killing of an American ambassador abroad in 30 years. The some 50 members of the group, the Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team (FAST), specialize in security amid terrorist threats.
President Barack Obama condemned the attacks, vowing to work with Libyan officials to bring justice to the killers -- a challenging endeavor given the post-revolution chaos that is prevailing in the region. "We reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others, but there is absolutely no justification for this type of senseless violence. None," he said in Washington on Wednesday.
The escalation of the series of violent incidents on Thursday in Yemen also follows Tuesday's announcement that an apparent US airstrike had killed al-Qaida's number two leader there. Yemen, a key US ally in the Middle East, is home to one of the terrorist organization's most active and dangerous branches, which is also backing an uprising in the country's south.