Mon, Sep 17, 2012 - Page 1 News List

US pulls staff as al-Qaeda urges attacks

AFP, DUBAI, United Arab Emirates

A Tunisian fire fighter is seen inside a burnt-out building on the grounds of the American school in Tunis, Tunisia, on Saturday.

PHOTO: AFP

Washington ordered all of its non-essential staff to leave Tunisia and Sudan after its embassies were stormed by Muslims protesting an anti-Islamic movie and as al-Qaeda called for more attacks on US targets.

US officials have already deployed counter-terrorism US Marine units to Libya and Yemen and stationed two destroyers off the North African coast.

However, Sudanese Foreign Minister Ali Karti on Saturday flatly rejected a US request to send special forces to protect the US embassy in Khartoum, the official SUNA news agency said, quoting his office.

Hours later, US officials announced Washington would evacuate all non-essential staff and family members from Sudan and Tunisia and warned US citizens against travel to the two countries.

In cities across the Muslim world protesters have vented their fury at the Innocence of Muslims — an amateur film produced in the US — by targeting symbols of US influence ranging from embassies and schools to fast food chains.

Protests erupted again yesterday, with hundreds of students pouring into the streets of Kabul shouting anti-US slogans, while the Bangladeshi government condemned the film as “reprehensible.”

With Muslim anger boiling, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) on Saturday issued a call for more violence against US diplomatic missions in the Middle East and Africa, and urged attacks on US interests in the West, the SITE Intelligence Group said.

In the worst violence triggered by the film, US Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed late on Tuesday, when suspected Islamic militants fired rocket-propelled grenades at the US consulate in Benghazi.

AQAP, al-Qaeda’s Yemeni offshoot, did not claim direct responsibility for the attack in the eastern Libyan city.

However, it said the killing of al-Qaeda deputy leader Sheikh Abu Yahya al-Libi in a June drone strike in Pakistan “increased the enthusiasm and determination of the sons of [Libyan independence hero] Omar al-Mukhtar to take revenge upon those who attack our Prophet,” according to SITE.

“May the expulsion of embassies and consulates lead to the liberation of Arab lands from the American hegemony and arrogance,” it said in another statement.

In Afghanistan, heavily armed Taliban fighters on Friday stormed a strongly fortified air base in Helmand Province where Britain’s Prince Harry is deployed, killing two US Marines in an assault the militia said was to avenge the anti-Islam film.

A NATO spokesman yesterday revealed that six US fighter jets and three refueling stations were destroyed and six aircraft hangars damaged in the attack.

Lieutenant Colonel Hagen Messer conceded that the scale of damage, carried out by more than a dozen attackers dressed in US Army uniforms and armed with guns, rockets and suicide vests who managed to storm the airfield, was unprecedented.

Friday’s attack came after at least 11 protesters died as police battled to defend US missions from mobs in Egypt, Lebanon, Sudan, Tunisia and Yemen.

US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said Washington was configuring its forces to cope with the widespread violence.

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

On Friday, guards on the roof of the US embassy in Khartoum fired warning shots at protesters who breached the compound walls waving Islamic banners.

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