SANA'A/CAIRO — Demonstrators attacked the U.S. embassies in Yemen and Egypt on Thursday in protest over a film they consider blasphemous to Islam and American warships headed to Libya after the death of the U.S. ambassador there in related violence earlier in the week.
Hundreds of Yemeni demonstrators broke through the main gate of the heavily fortified compound in eastern Sanaa, shouting "We sacrifice ourselves for you, Messenger of God". Earlier they smashed windows of security offices outside the embassy and burned cars.
"We can see a fire inside the compound and security forces are firing in the air. The demonstrators are fleeing and then charging back," one witness told Reuters. A security source said at least 15 people were wounded, some by bullets. An embassy spokesman said its personnel were reported to be safe.
In Egypt, protesters hurled stones at a police cordon around the U.S. embassy in central Cairo after climbing into the embassy and tearing down the American flag. The state news agency said 13 people were injured in violence which erupted on Wednesday night after protests on Tuesday.
A day earlier, Islamist gunmen staged a military-style assault on the U.S. consulate and a safe house refuge in Benghazi, eastern Libya. The U.S. ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans died in the assault, carried out with guns, mortars and grenades. Eight Libyans were injured.
U.S. President Barack Obama vowed to "bring to justice" the Islamist gunmen responsible and the U.S. military moved two navy destroyers towards the Libyan coast, in what a U.S. official said was a move to give the administration flexibility for any future action against Libyan targets.
The military also dispatched a Marine Corps anti-terrorist security team to boost security in Libya, whose leader Muammar Gaddafi was ousted in a U.S.-backed uprising last year.
The attack, which U.S. officials said may have been planned in advance, came on the 11th anniversary of al Qaeda's attacks on the United States on Sept. 11, 2001.
Republican Mitt Romney, Obama's challenger, criticized the president's response to the crisis. He said the timing of a statement from the U.S. embassy in Cairo denouncing "efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims" made Obama look weak as protesters were attacking U.S. missions.
Romney said it was "disgraceful" to be seen to be apologizing for American values of free speech. Obama's campaign accused Romney of trying to score political points at a time of national tragedy. Obama said Romney had a tendency "to shoot first and aim later."
Western countries denounced the Benghazi killings and Russia expressed deep concern, saying the episode underscored the need for global cooperation to fight "the evil of terrorism".
The attack raised questions about the future U.S. diplomatic presence in Libya, relations between Washington and Tripoli, and the unstable security situation after Gaddafi's overthrow.
Stevens, a 52-year-old California-born diplomat who spent a career operating in perilous places, became the first American ambassador killed in an attack since Adolph Dubs, the U.S. envoy to Afghanistan, died in a 1979 kidnapping attempt. — Reuters