Angry protests over the film by a U.S. producer, directed and produced by an Israeli-American real-estate developer who characterized it as a political effort to call attention to the hypocrisies of Islam. It has been promoted by Terry Jones, the Florida pastor whose burning of Qurans previously sparked deadly riots around the world.
In Benghazi, Libya, several dozen gunmen from an Islamist group, Ansar al Sharia, attacked the consulate with rocket-propelled grenades to protest the film, a deputy interior minister for the Benghazi region told the Al-Jazeera network. A government brigade evacuated the consulate, after which militants set it on fire, said the minister, Wanees Sharef.
One State Department officer was killed in the attack in Benghazi, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Tuesday night.
Mrs. Clinton said the State Department was working with Libyans to secure the compound and protect Americans in Libya.
To the east, in Cairo, a crowd of some 2,000 people gathered at the Embassy to protest the video. Some of them climbed the embassy walls late Tuesday, pulling down and burning an American flag.
Hours after nightfall, dozens of young men remained standing on top of the embassy walls, shouting into megaphones. One of the youths climbed up the flagpole to hoist a black banner emblazoned with the Muslim profession of faith in white letters—»There is no God but God and Muhammad is His Messenger»—a standard used by hardline Islamist groups throughout the world.
At the Cairo Embassy, Egyptian police had removed demonstrators from the grounds, the State Department said. The Egyptian foreign ministry said that the government bears full responsibility for the protection of foreign embassies on Egyptian soil.
The flashpoint appeared to be the film about the Prophet Muhammad, portions of which in recent days have been circulating on the Internet. Contravening the Islamic prohibition of portraying the prophet, clips from the film show him not only as flesh and blood—but as a homosexual son of undetermined patrimony, who rises to advocate child slavery and extramarital sex, for himself, in the name of religion.
«The United States deplores any intentional effort to denigrate the religious beliefs of others,» Mrs. Clinton said Tuesday night.
«But let me be clear: There is never any justification for violent acts of this kind,» she said in reference to the attacks.
The film’s 52-year-old writer, director and producer, Sam Bacile, said that he wanted to showcase his view of Islam as a hateful religion. «Islam is a cancer,» he said in a telephone interview from his home. «The movie is a political movie. It’s not a religious movie.»