NEW YORK, Sept 14, (Agencies): US President Barack Obama formally informed Congress on Friday that he had sent Marine units to Libya and Yemen on an open-ended mission in the aftermath of attacks on American diplomatic missions there. He cited the bloody assault that claimed the lives of US Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and three aides at the US Consulate in Benghazi. These attacks came during protests over an anti-Islam film.

“Although these security forces are equipped for combat, these movements have been undertaken solely for the purpose of protecting American citizens and property,” Obama said in a letter to Republican House Speaker John Boehner.

“These security forces will remain in Libya and in Yemen until the security situation becomes such that they are no longer needed,” the president wrote.

Obama vowed on Friday that the United States will do everything possible to protect Americans overseas, and underscored that host countries must provide security for diplomatic missions.

“We will continue to do everything in our power to protect Americans serving overseas, whether that means increasing security at our diplomatic posts, working with host countries — which have an obligation to provide security — and making it clear that justice will come to those who harm Americans,” Obama said.

He spoke at a ceremony honoring the return of the bodies of US Ambassador Christopher Stevens, State Department information management officer Sean Smith and security personnel Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty, both former Navy SEALS, who died in the assault on Tuesday on the US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

“These actions have been directed consistent with my responsibility to protect US citizens both at home and abroad, and in furtherance of US national security and foreign policy interests, pursuant to my constitutional authority to conduct US foreign relations and as Commander in Chief and Chief Executive,” he continued. “I appreciate the support of the Congress in these actions.

“Obama wrote the letter in compliance with the 1973 War Powers Act that sought to curtail a president’s ability to make war overseas without congressional consent. But he earlier had ignored congressional calls to get formal congressional authorization under that law for US military involvement in the NATO-led campaign to oust Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi, saying it was not required because Americans were not in danger, nor were they leading the mission.

Kuwait Friday strongly condemned the production by an “irresponsible” group of a movie that deliberately defamed Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and Islam.

Kuwait denounced all acts targeting faiths and religious icons, a foreign ministry source said.
Kuwait, added the source, voiced grave concern over the violent reactions that took place in a number of countries against American interests.

Kuwait has already started contacts with Organization of Islamic Cooperation’s (OIC) officials and called them to condemn this outrageous act, and to issue “decisive and binding” resolutions forbidding the attack against faiths, religious icons and emphasized dialogue and respect of religions.

Meanwhile, fury about a film that insults the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) tore across the Middle East after weekly prayers on Friday with protesters attacking US embassies and burning American flags as the Pentagon rushed to bolster security at its missions.

The obscure California-made film triggered an attack on the US consulate in Libya’s city of Benghazi that killed the US ambassador and three other Americans on Tuesday, the anniversary of the Sept 11, 2001 al-Qaeda attacks on the United States.

In Tunis, at least three people were killed and more than two dozen wounded, state television said after police gunfire near the US embassy in the city that was the cradle of last year’s Arab Spring uprisings for democracy. At least one person died in the Sudanese capital Khartoum, a doctor said, after some of thousands of protesters had leaped into the US embassy.

As US military drones faced Islamist anti-aircraft fire over Benghazi, about 50 marines landed in Yemen a day after the US embassy there was stormed. For a second day in the capital Sanaa, police battled hundreds of young men around the mission.

In Khartoum, wider anger at Western attitudes to Islam also saw the German embassy overrun, with police doing little to stop demonstrators who raised a black Islamist flag. Violence at the US embassy followed protests against both Washington and the Sudanese government, which is broadly at odds with the West.

The protests present US President Barack Obama with a new foreign policy crisis less than two months before seeking re-election and tests Washington’s relations with democratic governments it helped to power across the Arab world.

He was at Andrews Air Force Base near Washington to greet a flight bringing home remains of the four dead from Benghazi.

It also emerged that Libya had closed its airspace over the second city’s airport for a time because of heavy anti-aircraft fire by Islamists aiming at US reconnaissance drones flying over the city; Obama vowed to bring the ambassador’s killers to justice.

The closure of the airport prompted speculation that the United States was deploying special forces in preparation for an attack against the militants who were involved in the attack.

A Libyan official said the spy planes flew over the embassy compound and the city, taking photos and inspecting locations of radical militant groups who are believed to have planned and staged the attack on the US consulate.

There were protests in the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

The Pentagon said it had sent a “fast” platoon of Marines to Yemen to bolster US embassy security after clashes in Sanaa.

US embassies were the main target of anger and protest but most embassy staff were not at work because Friday is the Muslim weekend across the Arab World.

The frenzy erupted after traditional Muslim Friday prayers. Fury over the film has been stoked by Internet video footage, social networks, preachers and word-of-mouth.

Protesters clashed with police near the US embassy in Cairo. Two Islamist preachers in Egypt told worshippers that those who made the movie deserved to die under Islamic law but they urged protesters not to take their anger out on diplomats.

In the restive Sinai peninsula, militants opened fire on an international observer base near El Gorah, close to the borders of Israel and the Gaza Strip, and burned tires blocking a road to the camp, a witness and a security source reported. The source said two members of the force were wounded.

The Sudanese who broke into the German embassy in Khartoum and hoisted an Islamic flag, while one person was killed in protests in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli.

Police in the Sudanese capital had fired tear gas to try to disperse 5,000 protesters who had ringed the German embassy and nearby British mission. A Reuters witness said police stood by as a crowd forced its way into Germany’s mission.

Demonstrators hoisted a black Islamic flag saying in white letters “there is no God but God and Muhammad (PBUH) is his Prophet”. They smashed windows, cameras and furniture in the building and then started a fire.

Staff at Germany’s embassy were safe “for the moment”, Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said in Berlin. He also told Khartoum’s envoy to Berlin that Sudan must protect diplomatic missions on its soil.
Sudan’s Foreign Ministry had criticised Germany for allowing a protest last month by right-wing activists carrying caricatures of the Prophet (PBUH) and for Chancellor Angela Merkel giving an award in 2010 to a Danish cartoonist who depicted the Prophet (PBUH) in 2005 triggering protests across the Islamic world.

President Omar Hassan al-Bashir is under pressure from Islamists who feel the government has given up the religious values of his 1989 Islamist coup.

The official body of Sudan’s Islamic scholars called for the faithful to defend the Prophet (PBUH) peacefully, but at a meeting of Islamists, some leaders had said they would march on the German and US embassies and demanded the ambassadors be expelled.

The Foreign Ministry said in its statement: “The German chancellor unfortunately welcomed this offence to Islam in a clear violation of all meanings of religious co-existence and tolerance between religions.”
Sudan used to host prominent militants in the 1990s, such as Osama bin Laden, but the government has sought to distance itself from radicals to improve ties with the West.

A Lebanese security source said a man was killed in Tripoli as protesters tried to storm a government building.

Earlier, a US fast food restaurant was set alight. Twelve members of the security forces were wounded by stones thrown by protesters, the source said.

Protesters also clashed with police in Yemen, where one person died and 15 were injured on Thursday when the US embassy compound was stormed.

US and other Western embassies in other Muslim countries had tightened security, fearing anger at the film may prompt attacks on their compounds after the weekly worship.

Obama has promised to bring those responsible for the Benghazi attack to justice, and the United States also sent warships towards Libya which one official said was to give flexibility for any future action.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Washington had nothing to do with the crudely made film posted on the Internet, which she called “disgusting and reprehensible”, and the Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff called a Christian pastor in Florida to ask him to withdraw his support for it.

Palestinians staged demonstrations in both the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Israeli police, some on horseback, used stun grenades and made a number of arrests outside Jerusalem’s Old City as a few dozen demonstrators tried to march on the nearby US consulate.

“Israeli police prevented an illegal demonstration from reaching the US consulate in East Jerusalem and used stun grenades after rocks and bottles were thrown at them,” police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.

In Nablus, in the northern West Bank, several hundred people protested and burned an American flag, witnesses said.

The largest protests were in the Gaza Strip, which is controlled by Islamist group Hamas, with at least 30,000 Palestinians staging rallies across the coastal territory.

Some 25,000 took to the streets of Gaza City, answering a call by Hamas and the smaller Islamic Jihad faction and waving the green and black flags of the two factions.

American and Israeli flags were set alight, along with an effigy of the film’s producer.

Protesters in Afghanistan set fire to an effigy of Obama and burned a US flag after Friday prayers in the eastern province of Nangarhar.

Directing their anger against the US pastor who supported the film, tribal leaders also agreed to put a $100,000 bounty on his head.

About 10,000 people held a noisy protest in the Bangladeshi capital. They burned US flags, chanted anti-US slogans and demanded punishment for the offenders, but were stopped from marching to the
US embassy. There was no violence.

Thousands of Iranians held nationwide protests. There were also rallies in Malaysia, Nigeria, Jordan, Kenya, Bahrain, Qatar, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Iraq.
In Cairo, Egyptians angry at a film they saw as blasphemous to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) clashed on Friday for a third day with police blocking the way to the US embassy after protesters climbed its walls and tore down the American flag earlier this week.
“God is Greatest” and “There is no god but God”, one group near the front of the clashes chanted as police in riot gear fired tear gas and threw stones in a street leading from Tahrir Square to the embassy nearby.
Hundreds of protesters gathered in streets near the mission, pelting police with stones and petrol bombs as they were pushed back from the embassy perimeter.
The state news agency said 27 people were injured on Friday. Based on figures it announced on other days, that suggested more than 250 people have been injured since clashes erupted on Wednesday, after Tuesday’s breach of the embassy.
Elsewhere, thousands of people joined peaceful protests after Friday prayers in Tahrir and outside mosques in Cairo and other cities, responding to a call by the Muslim Brotherhood, the group that propelled President Mohamed Morsy to power.
Morsy, an Islamist and Egypt’s first freely elected leader, has to strike a delicate balance, fulfilling a pledge to protect the embassy of a major aid donor but also delivering a robust line against the film to satisfy his Islamist backers.
Morsy repeated on Friday his condemnation of the film, rejection of violence and promise to protect diplomatic missions in comments in Italy, the second stop of a trip to Europe.
On Thursday, he said he asked Obama to act against those seeking to harm relations. His cabinet said Washington was not to blame for the film but urged the United States to take legal action against those insulting religion.
US President Barack Obama’s administration says it had nothing to do with the film but cannot curb the constitutional right to free speech in the United States.
Washington has a large embassy in Cairo, partly because of a vast aid programme that began after Egypt signed a peace deal with Israel in 1979. Washington gives $1.3 billion in aid each year to the army plus additional funds to Egypt.
“Before the police, we were attacked by Obama, and his government, and the Coptic Christians living abroad!” shouted one protester wearing a robe and long beard favoured by some ultra-orthodox Muslims, speaking close to the police cordon.
Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox church has condemned what it said were Copts abroad who had financed the film. Many Copts worry about the rise of Islamists and fret about any action that could stoke tensions between the two communities.
The head of Libya’s national assembly on Friday blamed al-Qaeda for an attack on the US consulate in the city of Benghazi that killed ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.
Mohammed al-Megaryef laid a bouquet of flowers in front of the consulate where Stevens died on Tuesday when suspected Islamic militants fired on the compound with rocket-propelled grenades and set it ablaze.
Visibly moved, the General National Congress president said he regretted the loss of “a friend of Libyans who rendered laudable services to Libya.”
Surrounded by heavy security, Megaryef was accompanied by Libya’s military chief of staff Yussef al-Mangush.
US officials are investigating the possibility that the assault was an al-Qaeda-linked plot using a protest against an anti-Islam film as cover to mark the anniversary of the Sept 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.
Megaryef pointed a finger at the militant group.
“The film was made six months ago. How can you explain that this incident coincided with Sept 11. We mustn’t lie to ourselves,” he told AFP, without naming al-Qaeda.
In the immediate aftermath of the attack, Megaryef had blamed the attack on both al-Qaeda elements and remnants of Muammar Gaddafi’s regime which was toppled last year in a brutal conflict.
Nigerian soldiers fired live rounds in the air outside a mosque in the flashpoint city of Jos on Friday to disperse a crowd planning protests over a US-made anti-Islam film, a spokesman said.
The soldiers “had to fire some warning shots in the air, but there were no casualties,” Captain Salihu Mustapha, military spokesman in Plateau state, told AFP, putting the crowd of mostly young people at several hundred.
“The placards they were carrying were denouncing America,” he added.
After Friday prayers at Jos’s Yantaya mosque, which adheres to the hardline Wahhabi branch of Islam, a group began demonstrating against the film that mocks the Prophet Mohammed and has sparked deadly protests in several countries.
“We are not going to allow any protests in Jos,” a city where violence between Muslim and Christian groups has killed thousands of people in recent years, the spokesman said.
UN human rights chief Navi Pillay on Friday condemned the “malicious” anti-Islam film that has sparked fury in the Muslim world, calling on political and religious leaders to do their utmost to calm tensions.
“The film is malicious and deliberately provocative and portrays a disgracefully distorted image of Muslims,” the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said in a statement.
“I fully understand why people wish to protest strongly against it, and it is their right to do so peacefully,” she said.
She added though that “I utterly condemn the killings in Benghazi, and other violent and destructive reactions to the film, and urge religious and political leaders to make a major effort to restore calm.”
The White House said Friday it had contacted video sharing website YouTube to ask for a review of an anti-Muslim movie that sparked riots and attacks on US diplomatic posts in the Arab World.
National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said that officials “reached out to YouTube to call the video to their attention and ask them to review whether it violates their terms of use.”
On Wednesday, the Google-owned site said the film, “Innocence of Muslims,” was within the firm’s guidelines and would not be taken down, though access to it was temporarily restricted in Egypt and Libya.
Access to the movie has been blocked in Pakistan and Afghanistan and Indonesia has called for it to be removed from YouTube.
Extracts of the film were still available on YouTube Friday, though were accompanied by a warning that the content was “potentially offensive or inappropriate,” adding that viewer discretion was advised.
And in the United States, bomb scares led to thousands of students and university staff in Texas and North Dakota being ordered off campus Friday, though no suspicious devices went off following the emergency evacuations.
A spokeswoman for The University of Texas at Austin said a man with a Middle Eastern accent telephoned its offices at 8:35 am, and issued the threat.
“He said he was with al-Qaeda and that bombs would go off across campus in 90 minutes,” spokeswoman Tara Doolittle told AFP, prompting the university’s president to order everyone off campus as a precautionary measure.
But the 90-minute deadline passed without incident and the university said in a statement posted on its website that normal operations would resume at 5:00 pm, though all Friday classes were canceled.
Local and national law enforcement agencies are investigating the bomb scare.
Separately, North Dakota State University ordered all students and employees to leave campus by 10:15 am (1515 GMT) after it also received a bomb threat.
However, university police reopened the campus at 1:00 pm and all classes were scheduled to resume one hour later, a spokeswoman told AFP.

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