DUBAI — Western embassies across the Muslim world remained on high alert Sunday and the United States urged vigilance after days of anti-American violence provoked by a video mocking Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).
The State Department Saturday ordered the departure of all family members and non-essential US government personnel from its embassies in Sudan and Tunisia and warned US citizens against any travel to the two countries due to security concerns.
Germany followed the US lead and withdrew some staff from its embassy in Sudan, which was stormed Friday.
The US embassy in Yemen suspended all consular services for two weeks, the mission said in a statement on its website, after four people were killed in violent anti-American protests in Sana’a.
“Given the security situation in Tunis and Khartoum, the State Department has ordered the departure of all family members and non-emergency personnel from both posts, and issued parallel travel warnings to American citizens,” said department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland.
In Tunisia, the warning advised Americans that the international airport in Tunis is open and encouraged all US citizens to depart on commercial flights. It said Americans who chose to remain in Tunisia should use extreme caution and avoid demonstrations.
In Sudan, the warning said that while the Sudanese government has taken steps to limit the activities of terrorist groups, some remain and have threatened to attack Western interests.
The terrorist threat level remains “critical” throughout Sudan, the department said. It noted that US officials are already required to travel in armored vehicles and to get permission to travel outside Khartoum, where crowds torched part of the German Embassy and tried to storm the US Embassy Friday.
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle told Sunday’s Welt am Sonntag newspaper it was unacceptable “that our embassy (in Khartoum) was not sufficiently protected despite a prior request.” He said he expected Sudan to “fully guarantee the integrity of our embassy and the safety of our fellow countrymen.”
Although protests that peaked Friday largely subsided over the weekend, a small group of protesters burned a US flag outside the U.S. Embassy in the Turkish capital Anakara Sunday.
Riot police blocked the road, keeping them about 100 meters from the building.
In the Paksitani city of Lahore, about 5,000 people gathered for a protest, chanting anti-US slogans, while in Karachi, police blocked off roads to the US consulate with shipping containers.
In Hyderabad, one person was killed and one wounded when unidentified gunmen opened fire at a protest against the film and in the capital of Azad Kashmir, Muzaffarabad, about 300 protestors burnt an effigy of US President Barack Obama.
US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said he hoped the worst of the violence was over but that US missions must remain on guard against any flare-ups.
“There continue to be some demonstrations but it would appear that there is some levelling off on the violence that we thought might take place,” Panetta told reporters on his plane en route to Asia Saturday.
“Having said that these demonstrations are likely to continue over the next few days if not longer.
The United States had deployed a significant force in the Middle East to deal with any contingencies and rapid deployment teams were ready to respond to incidents, he said. — Agencies