Friday is a holy day in the Muslim world, a day off, like the Jewish sabbath or Christian sunday, when Muslims attend mosque and have Friday Prayers. Sermons take place and it is frequently a flash point for street protests, insurrection and violence. Fortuitously because it is a day off, most embassy staff were not at work.
Predictably, violence erupted across the Middle East following Friday Prayers. It was not ‘Good Friday.’ I stopped counting at 13 countries last night, where protests were being mounted outside US embassies or national mosques in those countries, burning of American flags, etc.
Here is a summary:
The Pentagon has rushed to bolster security at its foreign missions. It sent a “fast” platoon of Marines to Yemen to bolster U.S. embassy security after clashes in Sanaa.
In Tunisia three people were killed and more than two dozen wounded. Tunis was the cradle of last year’s Arab Spring uprisings for democracy.
In the Sudanese capital Khartoum one person died after thousands of people stormed the US embassy where there is wider anger at Western attitudes to Islam.
In Benghazi, US military drones were shot at by anti-aircraft fire.
In Yemen, 50 marines landed while police battled hundreds of young men around the US mission.
In Lebanon, incredibly Pope Benedict arrived for a three-day visit. Can we imagine what would happen if the Pope (leader of the world’s largest faith) was attacked, kidnapped, or killed? We should remember that Hezbollah fires Russian rockets into Israeli suburbs on a regular basis. In the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli there were 5,000 protesters chanting “there is no God but God and Mohammed is his Prophet”.
In the Sudan the German embassy was attacked, because of a Imam sermon denouncing anti-Muslim graffiti on German mosques.
Libya closed its airspace over the second city’s airport for a time because of heavy anti-aircraft fire by Islamists aiming at US reconnaissance drones flying over the city.
In Cairo where the largest protests are taking place, two Islamist preachers told worshippers that those who made the movie deserved to die under Islamic law but urged protesters not to take their anger out on diplomats.
In Sinai militants opened fire on an international observer base near El Gorah, close to the borders of Israel and the Gaza Strip, and burned tyres.