On Friday, it was the freedom to target American-linked buildings that most defined the day, as many governments appeared to be taken by surprise at the strength of the protests. Not even KFC and Hardee’s were safe, with franchises in Tripoli, Lebanon, torched by protesters as security forces opened fire on them, killing at least one person.
It was impossible to know how many of the thousands of demonstrators who filled streets outside U.S. outposts were motivated by reports about the video — which was made under mysterious circumstances, apparently by individuals in California — and how many were venting anger at the United States for other reasons. A short clip has been available on the Internet for weeks but apparently did not generate much attention until it was subtitled in Arabic and sent to Egyptian journalists.
The vehemence and volatile nature of the protests in capital after capital — images of which were broadcast around the globe almost instantly via blogs, social media networks and cable news stations — were unmistakable.
Anti-U.S. protests spread to Afghanistan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Britain, East Jerusalem, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Malaysia, Pakistan, Qatar, Syria, Turkey, the West Bank and Yemen, according to U.S. officials and news reports, with many protesters chanting religious slogans and railing against the denigration of Islam in the obscure low-budget video.
Embassies are targeted
In Tunisia, whose toppling of an autocrat in 2011 set the Arab Spring in motion, an American school was largely destroyed in Tunis, the capital, and protesters set fire to cars inside the U.S. Embassy parking lot. U.S. officials said Tunisian security provided a “very strong presence,” confronting stone-throwing crowds with tear gas and gunfire and pushing demonstrators out of the embassy compound.
In Khartoum, the Sudanese capital, buses full of protesters stormed the German Embassy and set it ablaze, then headed for the U.S. Embassy on the outskirts of the city. Thousands gathered there, and many were trying to climb the embassy walls when police opened fire. At least three protesters were seen motionless on the ground, according to the Associated Press.