Mohammed Abu Zaid/AP
Protesters destroy an American flag pulled down from the U.S. embassy in Cairo, Egypt on Tuesday.
Protesters destroy an American flag pulled down from the U.S. embassy in Cairo, Egypt on Tuesday. Mohammed Abu Zaid/AP
A group of protesters scaled the walls of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and replaced the American flag with a black one inscribed with the Islamic declaration of faith.
"There is no God but Allah and Mohamed is the Prophet of Allah," the flag read.
According to the AP hundreds of demonstrators gathered to protest against an American-made film they said insults the Islamic prophet, Muhammad.
The AP reports:
"Dozens of protesters then scaled the embassy walls, took down the flag from a pole in the courtyard and brought it back to the crowd outside. The crowd tried to burn it, but failing that, tore it apart. ...
"In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the U.S. was working with Egyptian authorities to try to restore order. Almost all the staff had left before the embassy was breached, a U.S. official said. Only a few staff members were still inside, as embassy security had sent most staff home early after learning of the upcoming protest. The situation is still fluid, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to speak publicly on the matter."
The Egyptian daily Al-Ahram reports that the film was produced by US-based Coptic-Christian Egyptians and set to screen during the anniversary of Sept. 11.
"Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Church and Evangelical Church, meanwhile, both released statements on Monday condemning the film, stressing that it did not represent Egypt's Christian community," Ahram reports.
Update at 12:44 a.m. ET Wednesday, Sept. 12: Romney Condemns U.S. Response
Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has criticized the early U.S. response to the attacks, the AP reports:
In a statement Tuesday night, Romney said he was outraged by the attacks and the death of the American consulate worker. He added: "It's disgraceful that the Obama administration's first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks" ...
In response to Romney, Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt said in an email early Wednesday: "We are shocked that, at a time when the United States of America is confronting the tragic death of one of our diplomatic officers in Libya, Gov. Romney would choose to launch a political attack."
Update at 10:14 p.m. ET. American Confirmed Killed In Libya:
A State Department officer was killed in the attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi.
Here's a statement from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the violence:
"I condemn in the strongest terms the attack on our mission in Benghazi today. As we work to secure our personnel and facilities, we have confirmed that one of our State Department officers was killed. We are heartbroken by this terrible loss. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and those who have suffered in this attack.
This evening, I called Libyan President Magariaf to coordinate additional support to protect Americans in Libya. President Magariaf expressed his condemnation and condolences and pledged his government's full cooperation.
Some have sought to justify this vicious behavior as a response to inflammatory material posted on the Internet. The United States deplores any intentional effort to denigrate the religious beliefs of others. Our commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation. But let me be clear: There is never any justification for violent acts of this kind.
In light of the events of today, the United States government is working with partner countries around the world to protect our personnel, our missions, and American citizens worldwide."
Update at 6:36 p.m. ET. U.S. Condemns Attacks:
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland confirmed that their Benghazi office had been attacked a "by a group of militants."
"We are working with the Libyans now to secure the compound," she said in a statement. "We condemn in strongest terms this attack on our diplomatic mission."
Update at 6:09 p.m. ET. Protests In Libya:
The AP reports the protests have spread to Libya:
"In a sign of growing anger over the film, Libyans set fire to the U.S. consulate in the eastern city of Benghazi and fired in the air after a protest against the film. Witnesses said much of the consulate was burned."
Update at 5:59 p.m. ET. The Film:
There are conflicting reports about which film caused these protests and who produced the film.
Foreign Policy has the best explanation for how all of this started
"The Salafist protesters appear to be spurred on by a television program condemning an American film that reportedly insulted the Prophet Muhammad. A clip of the film played on the program opens with a man pointing to a goat and saying, "This is the first Muslim animal!"
"According to an article in the Egyptian daily Youm7 (which is not always accurate, so caveat emptor), the film is called "Muhammad, Prophet of the Muslims" and was produced by infamous Quran-burning preacher Terry Jones, in collaboration with a group of Egyptian Copts."
FP points to this YouTube video, which shows a clip of the film starting at 1:52.
One more thing to keep in mind: There are also conflicting reports as to whether Jones played any role in the making of the film.